Carleton University Magazine

Youth No Bar for New Mayor

Recently elected in rural North Dundas, Eric Duncan may be celebrated as the Kid Mayor, but he’s no newbie in the political world

Eric Duncan

MUG SHOT  Duncan, in the lunchroom at North Dundas Township Office, sports his chain of office bling. He began his career in politics while he was still a student at Carleton University

Last fall, with a landslide victory in North Dundas, a rural municipality of almost 12,000 just south of Ottawa, 23-year-old Eric Duncan, BA/10, became the province’s youngest mayor. Duncan is no political neophyte: In 2006, just three days after his 19th birthday, he was elected to North Dundas municipal council. He has also worked as an executive assistant to Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry Conservative MP Guy Lauzon and has served as the Tories’ caucus co-ordinator on Parliament Hill—all the while completing his political science degree at Carleton.

How’s it going so far?
I got sworn in last night [December 7, 2010], and the swearing at me starts today. It was a good night. There were about 350 people at the ceremony at the high school where I graduated six years ago. It was a neat experience.

In mayor years, just how young are you?
I’m the youngest mayor in Ontario since 1982 and second or third youngest directly elected mayor in Canadian history—something like that.

Do you get some ribbing from friends you grew up with?
A lot of them were there last night, and there was some reaction to the chain of office the mayor wears. They’d never seen that before, so they called it bling. They loved the bling.

How do you relate to your contemporaries, who, in all likelihood, don’t have quite the same concerns or ambitions you do?
I’m just your average 23-year-old starting a career. I just happen to have mayor in my title

Has your relative youth given you an advantage in your ability to exploit social media?
Oh, yes, absolutely. Facebook, email, and my website were a huge factor in getting out our message unfiltered. It was in the thousands, people visiting our website. It was amazing to see. It’s the way going forward. Politicians should realize the advantage of it—and do it properly.

How do your political adversaries react to your age?
There are a lot of younger people with leadership qualities and ambitions who have the ability to make a difference in business or health care or politics, and they often don’t get the chance because they’re considered too much of a risk. When I was on council, there were some who thought I was lucky just to have a vote at council table. Over time you work hard and prove yourself.

How do you feel about suddenly being responsible for a budget of $10 million a year?
It’s daunting no matter whether you’re 23 or 63, but I think being a councillor in the municipality has really helped ease my nerves in that regard. I had four years on the inside to see how things were done and what improvements needed to be made.

Where did your political ambition come from?
I think it came out of a family background of community volunteering. I got involved with the local South Mountain Fair when I was 13. I said I wanted to do business sponsorship. So they said, “Well, we only raised about $6,000 last year. It can’t really be screwed up that much more.” So I spent the entire summer getting my dad or someone else to drive me around and I talked to businesses. In the end, I raised $35,000. People’s jaws hit the floor.

Who are your political heroes?
I’ve always really admired [Ottawa mayor] Jim Watson [BA/83]. The irony is, I work for a Conservative MP, and Watson was a Liberal MPP, but he’s very pragmatic, centrist, moderate, a consensus builder. Some people on both the left wing and right wing hate that word consensus-building, but you get 10 times as much done. You’re a lot more successful if you bring people together and try to give everybody a little of what they want.

Could you see yourself making a run for Parliament at some point?
Down the road, for sure. I love serving in public life and would like to have the opportunity of being an MP or MPP at some point. I make no illusions about that. Some people criticize that. But it’s like wanting to be a doctor or lawyer or teacher—I want to be a member of Parliament. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Written by David McDonald ( BJ/69 )
Photos by Luther Caverly

This story was published in the Winter 2011 issue. Bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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