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!