By Pauline Kerr
There has been a lot of talk about elections lately, from comments that the federal budget sounded like an “election budget in a pandemic year,” to discussions on how well Canada’s new Tory leader will fare in the next federal election, to what impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the next election. The one to which they are referring is the federal election that happens Oct. 16, 2023 at the latest.
They should be a lot more interested in the provincial election scheduled for a little over a year from now, on June 2, 2022. But the one that will dictate where and how they and their families live is the election on Oct. 24, 2022.
Even when times are normal – which they certainly have not been for over a year – people are far more interested in the daily pronouncements from Parliament Hill, Queen’s Park and even from Washington, D.C. than they are in what happens at the local municipal office.
Yet decisions are being made at every local council meeting that will have a resounding impact on each of us.
Will we be able to find decent housing at an affordable price? We need to talk to our local government representatives.
Will a municipal council decision encourage investment here, or cause developers to look elsewhere?
Will there be the kind of employment opportunities that will enable our children and grandchildren to stay in the area, or will they have to move far away to build decent careers?
Education may be a provincial responsibility, but municipal governments have a much larger say in it than they are given credit for. They can and do work with business and industry, as well as colleges and universities, to ensure the right kind of training is provided locally. They can and do strive to attract businesses to the area, not just to build the tax base but to ensure jobs are available.
They decide what amenities the local area will have – sports, the arts, and much more. Will our children have parks to enjoy, hockey arenas and ball diamonds to compete on, and trails to hike? Will we find museum exhibits, art shows, live theatre and concerts close to home? That will be decided by our municipal council.
Health care is not traditionally regarded as a municipal responsibility, but it is increasingly becoming one as communities compete for health-care professionals and scarce medical resources.
Will this be the kind of community we want to live in, invest in, and raise our children in? The people we elect to municipal council make the decisions that determine that.
In an area like this, members of municipal council do not run for office to get rich. Considering the number of hours they spend reading up on issues coming before council, attending committee and council meetings, and listening to public concerns about everything from car-eating potholes, mysterious foul odours and flooded basements, to neighbours who may or may not be raising goats and chickens in their garage, the honorarium they receive is miniscule.
Recovering from COVID-19 will be a challenge for every level of government. The small businesses that are the lifeblood of a community like this have taken hit after hit throughout the pandemic. They will need support in the form of loans, grants and most of all, wise, business-friendly decisions.
Many of the more important decisions will be made at the municipal level. This demands a council that puts the public good before personal agendas, that makes decisions with thought and wisdom, and most of all, functions effectively.
This is the time to learn about the issues facing this community, do our homework and think about who we want guiding us through the next four years to post-COVID success.
Municipal politics is not a spectator sport. It is something that best serves the community through the participation of as many informed people as possible, whether they run for office, support others who are doing so, take up petitions, organize meetings or simply cast their ballots.