by Pauline Kerr
Where are the candidates?
One can only hope council hopefuls are holding off filing nomination papers until Aug. 19 – nomination day. Some candidates do that; perhaps they want to see who else is running for council, keep their options open regarding which position to seek, or maintain some sort of anonymity as long as possible. They may be awaiting some special alignment of stars to show the time is right for entering, or re-entering municipal politics.
Of course, it could be that the individuals who seem to have no shortage of things to say about what the current council is doing wrong, prefer sniping on social media or over the counter at the coffee ship, to debating across the council table.
In essence, they have chosen to remain part of the problem instead of becoming part of the solution.
At one time, a position on municipal council was a reward for years of community service, and a sign one had achieved a certain social status. Average folk did not seek office; that privilege was reserved for people who lived on the right side of the tracks – wealthier farmers, doctors, lawyers and merchants, and the occasional reformed bootlegger. A seat on municipal council was their right, and also their responsibility. On occasion, it served as a stepping stone to provincial or federal politics.
While there were certainly colourful individuals in municipal politics, some of whom operated on the shady side of the law, this area has produced many remarkable municipal leaders. They made wise decisions for the good of their communities, that set the stage for the future prosperity we now enjoy.
In recent years, the nature of municipal politics in rural areas has changed. Instead of being like the executive of a small-town service club, the council chamber being where the “boys” could discuss matters of importance over a good cigar while someone took notes longhand, council now operates more like the board of directors of a multi-million-dollar corporation. The cigars were banished to the bench behind the works shed years ago.
Municipal councillors even in the most rural of areas have been on a steep learning curve. They still vote on what grade of gravel to use on roads, but they also find themselves acquiring a working knowledge of union contracts, sewage treatment plants, municipal law, economics, social services and are veering into areas like health care and education.
The municipality is often one of the larger employers in a community, when one considers firefighters, snow plow operators, lifeguards and other part-time recreation staff, as well as office people, maintenance crews and all the rest.
When we speak of responsible government, we tend to get a mental image of someone in fancy dress, making a profoundly eloquent speech on Parliament Hill. Responsible government means people vote for individuals to represent them. Those in power are responsible to the voters, not a monarch or other power.
Municipal council members encounter those voters on a daily basis, at the grocery store, hair salon, kids’ soccer match, and the waiting room at the dentist’s office. People with a problem can, and do, phone them at home. Our elected municipal leaders have a detailed knowledge of local issues that would be the envy of many federal and provincial representatives.
They have the wherewithal to do something about those issues, too. Our elected municipal officials make the decisions that determine what kind of community we will have, and our children will have – hopefully welcoming and forward-thinking, innovative and thriving.
The social media and coffee shop snipers can do little except complain. The main difference between the whiners and the doers of this community can be something as simple as filing nomination papers. Even if someone else gets elected, ideas are exchanged during campaigns, which are the ultimate community networking opportunity. A good many glorious political careers began with being the unsuccessful candidate.
Nomination day is Aug. 19, and at last count, there were still positions with a single candidate, or no candidate. There is still time to file papers.