World Politics

Politics trump family ties in Port Colborne mayoral race

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A battle is brewing on the shores of Lake Erie, and oh brother, it’s a doozy.

Port Colborne Mayor Bill Steele wasn’t sure what to expect as the date neared to register for the Oct. 24 election. After 17 years on city council and one term as mayor, he thought for sure he’d have challengers.

“Nobody came forward,” he says. “So we looked at acclamation, but then we had a candidate throw his name in at the last minute. So here we are in election mode.”

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But when he saw the name of his opponent listed as “Charles Steele,” he was initially confused. He has a brother named Charles David William Steele, but says, “his name is not Charles. It’s David. He’s always been known as David. It’s David Steele.”

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Further to that, the brothers hadn’t spoken in over 30 years and “David” had never run for public office before. But it wasn’t long before it was confirmed Port Colborne would have a front seat to a decades-old familial spat. And the name thing?

“I’ve been told you should use your first name in business and important matters,” Charles Steele says. “So I use the name Charles. It’s as simple as that.”

United Empire Loyalists arrive in Canada.

Library and Archives Canada

Port Colborne is a city of 20,000 best known as one of the gateways to the famed Welland Canal, which connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario for the roughly 3,000 ships that pass through it annually. The construction of the first iteration of the canal in the 1830s brought with it an increase in population, which eventually led to the village of Port Colborne being incorporated in 1870.

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But the first non-native settlers were United Empire Loyalists who arrived after fleeing the U.S. civil war in the 1770s. And the head of one of the first two loyalist families to put down roots was named William Steele, the ancestor of Bill and Charles.

Adding to the Steele legacy, their great uncle Dewitt Carter was mayor in 1918 and their great grandfather C.S. Steele served as…

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