Mayor Kristal Chopp’s penchant for dramatic gestures has again stirred controversy.
The latest arose after the Norfolk mayor shared an image of a “shit sandwich” with Municipal Affairs Minister Steven Clark at the annual general meeting of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association in Toronto at the end of January.
In an interview last week, Chopp said she was sharing photocopies of news articles documenting instances of perceived abuse and neglect of Norfolk County and rural Ontario in general during 15 years of Liberal rule between 2003 and 2018.
At the end of her presentation, Chopp told Clark this history amounted to something, and with that she placed a drawing on top of the stack. The image was that of the proverbial “shit sandwich.”
Chopp said she has developed a rapport with the minister since she was elected in 2018 and that she believed he would appreciate the humour in her gesture.
Others are less sanguine. Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett has aired a number of differences with the county on social media since Norfolk council approved a 2020 budget containing a steep tax hike and significant service cuts.
Barrett was not at the meeting with Clark, but did appear at ROMA for farm-related announcements from Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture. Barrett is parliamentary assistant to the minister.
“That’s an unusual way of doing it,” Barrett said Feb. 13. “I have spoken to Minister Clark about it. I wanted to make it clear to Steve that this is not how we do business down here. And he knows that’s not how we do business down here.
“The use of that expression — I don’t use that language. It can be taken the wrong way when it’s discussed later on. I don’t know if language like that is used at council. I know it’s not used in my office.”
This is not the first time Chopp has made a point in an unconventional manner.
A newcomer to Norfolk and municipal politics, she introduced herself in the summer of 2018 by having a large mural painted on the front of her brick home in Port Dover. The words — “Norfolk-off Beer-ocracy” — took the municipality to task for red tape in reference to a brewery she intended to develop.
The mural persisted for several months after Chopp’s election, prompting some to suggest it was disrespectful to her office and the municipality she represents. The mural was finally painted over last summer.
In January 2019, Chopp found herself at the centre of controversy again when she expressed displeasure with a planning report involving the legalization of live poultry in urban areas. At the council meeting where the report was tabled, Chopp ripped the report in half and dropped the pieces on the council table.
The planner who prepared the report was standing at the podium at Governor Simcoe Square when this occurred. The meeting in question was live-streamed into homes over cable TV and the internet.
This prompted an investigation costing Norfolk some $30,000 by newly-appointed integrity commissioner John Mascarin of Toronto. Acting on Mascarin’s recommendation, Norfolk council ordered the mayor to apologize. The mayor did so at the May 31 deadline.