His­tor­i­cal elec­tion

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Editorial - Andy Barker Andy Barker can be con­tacted at abdp9@hot­mail.com

Tem­pus fugit and time has surely flown by since the last mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions were held in Novem­ber (1993) in­stead of Septem­ber. Our prov­ince is com­pletely out of sync with the rest of Canada, where such elec­tions are held ei­ther in Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber; New Brunswick votes in May.

The zany idea of mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions near the end of sum­mer prob­a­bly robs us of po­ten­tial can­di­dates; who wants to think about pol­i­tics when cabins, bar­be­cu­ing, gar­den­ing and the like oc­cupy our minds? The elec­tion bus needs a re­fit and re­vert­ing to a later date should be a pri­or­ity.

Mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils af­fect our lives daily as they ex­ist right where we live rather than in some far-off cap­i­tal. Yet, voter turnout is of­ten very poor. Piti­fully, ac­cla­ma­tion means zero vot­ing in var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing for the mayor of Con­cep­tion Bay South (NL’s sec­ond largest mu­nic­i­pal­ity), the whole coun­cil in Clarenville, and five can­di­dates nom­i­nated in North­ern Arm. As for those run­ning, they de­serve a pat on the back.

Most coun­cils now elected are not true vol­un­teers as they re­ceive an hon­o­rar­ium. This year, in Grand Falls-Wind­sor that hon­o­rar­ium, or salary (one third tax-free) is set at: mayor $38,075; deputy mayor - $25,960; coun­cil­lors - $21,806. Whether the salaries are too high is ques­tion­able, but such a ques­tion is never a pub­lic de­bate as coun­cil re­ceives an au­to­matic raise based on for­mula tied to lo­cal taxes. All coun­cils should be in line with St John’s, where a mo­tion at a pub­lic meet­ing is re­quired be­fore dip­ping into tax­pay­ers’ pock­ets.

For now, though, the lu­di­crous date of the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion and salaries paid out are what they are – items to be tack­led later. What mat­ters now is who we will elect for the next four years.

For livy­ers in the Ex­ploits Val­ley, this is the most his­tor­i­cal elec­tion in our his­tory as it is the first elec­tion with the mill not only shut down, but com­pletely de­mol­ished, ka­put. Still run­ning though are the highly prof­itable power plants at Grand Falls-Wind­sor, Bishop’s Falls, Star Lake and Buchans.

There are al­ways im­por­tant mu­nic­i­pal is­sues, but in our case, surely it’s the econ­omy stupid (just an ex­pres­sion). Thus, the real is­sue through­out the re­gion is jobs and the ones we re­ally need are sim­i­lar to the ones we had –jobs in forestry, along with the elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated here to man­u­fac­ture new prod­ucts, wood or oth­er­wise. Re­source-based jobs are the en­gines needed to drive our lo­cal econ­omy and they in turn make the jobs in the ser­vice in­dus­try – gov­ern­ment of­fices, hos­pi­tal care, sell­ing cof­fee, burg­ers, cars, ham­mers, or stoves – ic­ing on the cake.

The provin­cial gov­ern­ment is quite vo­cal on the is­sue of ad­ja­cency rights with the de­mand for first dibs at the fish­ery and the off­shore oil, even though both are un­der fed­eral con­trol. Like­wise, what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gan­der, but not in Gan­der. We in the Ex­ploits Val­ley are not only ad­ja­cent to the for­est and elec­tric­ity re­sources, but have earned the right for first use of those re­sources with over 100 years of un­sur­passed, un­prece­dented, ded­i­cated, back­break­ing, work in the pulp and pa­per in­dus­try.

De­plorably though, ad­ja­cency is get­ting us nowhere and our coun­cils have been too mealy mouthed about the lack of a sim­i­lar in­dus­try in our re­gion to drive the lo­cal econ­omy. If the pace of what to do with Grand Falls House is any in­di­ca­tion, many of us will be dead or gone be­fore we see any ac­tion on the huge block of va­cant land that once housed a mag­nif­i­cent in­dus­try. Ugh!

For whom shall I vote? If our town doesn’t want to get caught up in the prov­ince’s ag­ing and de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion vor­tex, we need to be a place with good jobs to keep and at­tract a younger gen­er­a­tion who will make our com­mu­nity a place worth liv­ing. Thus, my vote will not be based on whether a can­di­date is like­able, good looking, one sex or an­other, ed­u­cated, re­li­gious, or po­lit­i­cally right or left.

Rather, I am vot­ing for can­di­dates who, I hope, have some vi­sion to kick start our lo­cal econ­omy; are not in­tim­i­dated to ques­tion the sta­tus quo, es­pe­cially pub­licly; have an edge in their per­son­al­ity, a burr in their sad­dle. Hope­fully, those for whom I vote will not spend their term on coun­cil toe­ing the line, as we ur­gently need cast­ers of lines to see what is out there to make this a bet­ter place to live. Finally, I am vot­ing for can­di­dates who will not be shy to pub­licly de­fend our rights, place, and pro­file in the re­gion and prov­ince, and at the same time join hands with nearby coun­cils for the bet­ter­ment of us all.

Mean­while, dear read­ers, the beauty of democ­racy and the se­cret bal­lot al­lows you to do as you please, as long as you vote.

So be it!

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