Bolstering the ballot
Campaign continues to attract more candidates for September municipal elections
Attendees at Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador’s recent symposium in Gander heard first-hand from several councillors how serving on municipal government has enriched their lives.
Maisie Clark has been mayor of the Town of Campbellton since 2001. She’s hoping to be re-elected.
“I got involved because I saw that there were many things the town needed. We were having trouble financially and I knew I had the time and felt I could make a difference,” Clark said during a recent telephone interview.
Clark says like men in other rural communities, many of those living in Campbellton have had to leave the province to find work. It’s time for women to step up and do their part, she says.
“If we want our town to be sustainable and survive we have to get involved. Nobody else is going to do it for us. Even if you are working, you can find the time. If everybody did a little bit, nobody would have to do a lot of work.”
Part of a team
Women run households and often look after the family’s budget, Clark says. It’s no different when you are in charge of a municipal budget, she says.
“You only have so much money and if you overspend you are in trouble. But you’re not alone. You have your councillors and you make your decisions together. I just love it.”
Amy Coady-Davis is serving her first term as a councillor with the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor. She’ll also ask voters to support her again in September.
“My father ( Jim Coady) was in media for 35 years. So I had a real interest in politics because I used to follow it through the media. And when my husband and I decided to make Grand Falls- Windsor our home and raise our children here, I decided I wanted to serve on council.”
Coady-Davis put her name on the ballot in the January 2008 byelection. She was defeated. She put her name forward again in another byelection just months later.
“I improved my vote count but still wasn’t the successful candidate.”
As the old saying goes — the third time was a charm for CoadyDavis. She was elected in the general election in September 2009.
The mother of three young children, Coady-Davis works for the provincial government. It’s a seasonal job, she says, and when not working for the province takes a job with the College of the North Atlantic.
Like all councillors in Grand Falls-Windsor, Coady-Davis receives a monthly stipend for her work on council. While serving on municipal government is time consuming, she says, it’s also very rewarding.
“It’s a whole lot more than I could have ever imagined. I went in with a bunch of ideas thinking I was going to go in and would fix everything. But I sat around the table at the first meeting and realized I didn’t have a clue what it takes to run a municipality.”
Since that first meeting she’s listened and learned and is wellversed on how a municipality operates. She’s ready to help others understand the political ropes.
“It’s so gratifying and so interesting to see the fruits of your labour. People who are thinking about running should talk to as many people as they can to get an idea of exactly what’s involved … make the decision soon, don’t wait till the last minute to put your name on a ballot.”
Seeking females, youth
Bauline Mayor Chris Dredge, Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O’Brien and MNL president Churence Rogers also participated
Amy Coady-Davis is a councillor with the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor.
in the “Make Your Mark” panel discussion.
O’Brien’s department co-ordinated the discussions as part of its “Make Your Mark” campaign that will run during Municipal Awareness Week (May 27-31).
The campaign encourages people — particularly women and youth — to run in the upcoming municipal general election.
Rogers, who is mayor of the Town of Centreville-WarehamTrinity, says the panel discussions and the entire symposium which ran from May 9-11 were a “huge success.”
More money from feds and province
Now that both the provincial and federal governments have invested more money into municipalities, Rogers says people should feel better about running for council.
Prior to both the provincial and federal budget announcements, Rogers said, he had “major concerns” about how both levels of government would financially treat municipalities.
“If we didn’t get supports from the feds and from the province, we were going to see an councillors …” he said.
While more needs to be done, he says, governments have listened.
In its latest budget, the federal government indexed the gas tax transfer. The first indexing of a municipal transfer will add $9 billion to the permanent gas tax fund over 20 years.
Rogers says the provincial government has also put its support behind municipalities by implementing a new Municipal Operating Grants Formula.
“There won’t be a reduction in any of the Municipal Operating Grants, which is something we’ve asked for and they delivered on.”
Government will maintain Municipal Operating Grants at existing funding levels for communities under 11,000 residents for the remainder of 2013 and have invested $22 million to support a new Municipal Operating Grant formula for communities under 11,000 residents, effective January 1, 2014.
The formula ensures that no municipality will receive less funding than their current level, and most will see an increase.
Government has also commit-
exodus of ted $25 million to support the development of a new Capital Works Program for the seven municipalities in the province with populations greater than 11,000 which will no longer receive Municipal Operating Grants (St. John’s, Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl, Paradise, Corner Brook, Gander, and Grand FallsWindsor).
The provincial government has also committed to a full discussion on a new fiscal framework for municipalities, and “We’re extremely pleased with that commitment.”
Once that’s done, he says, municipalities will be taken care of for the next couple of decades.
Rogers says those attending the symposium went home with a “renewed sense of optimism” for the future of municipal politics. He’s confident that enthusiasm will show when it’s time to put names on ballots.
“I think you are going to see more and more people who were intending not to run to stay on and run again. And hopefully, we’ll bring some new blood in.”