‘It doesn’t speak well for democ­racy’

For­mer mayor Fred Best, res­i­dents weigh in on Clarenville ac­cla­ma­tion

The Packet (Clarenville) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARK SQUIBB THE PACKET

CLARENVILLE, NL – Sept. 27 was mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion day in New­found­land and Labrador. But res­i­dents of Clarenville didn’t get the chance to go to the poll booths.

Mayor Fred Rus­sell and six coun­cil­lors were ac­claimed ear­lier in Septem­ber.

For­mer Clarenville mayor Fred Best and wife Louise both agree that, as far back as they can re­mem­ber, this might be the first time there has been no mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.

Best served on Clarenville town coun­cil for 36 years – 32 of those years were as mayor.

“The nor­mal in Clarenville has al­most been twice the num­ber of can­di­dates that you need,” said Best. “I can re­mem­ber when we’ve had as many as 15 or 20 and I can re­mem­ber when we’ve had about 10 or 12.”

“It’s an un­usual thing for Clarenville not to have that in­ter­est in a mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion.”

Best says ac­cla­ma­tion is not an ideal sit­u­a­tion be­cause it leaves res­i­dents with­out the abil­ity to choose their mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment.

“The rea­son we have elec­tions is to elect the peo­ple that we feel are the best peo­ple for it. And when peo­ple go in by ac­cla­ma­tion, even if they might be good can­di­dates, you don’t have that choice to make,” said Best.

“It doesn’t speak well for democ­racy, be­cause that’s what democ­racy is all about— to go to the polls and elect the best peo­ple that they think can gov­ern for them.”

Best in­di­cated that per­haps more can be done to en­cour­age po­ten­tial can­di­dates to run for po­si­tions in mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment.

“Get­ting peo­ple to run for an elec­tion is a process that has to be re­ally ad­ver­tised at a lo­cal level. You have to re­ally get out there and try to con­vince peo­ple that it is the right thing to do. Be­cause peo­ple take this at­ti­tude that, ‘well, it’s go­ing to hap­pen any­way,’” said Best.

“Some­times we don’t do enough of that, to get out there and push to get good can­di­dates,” he added.

Both Fred and Louise are re­tired now and have de­cided to re­main in Clarenville, where Fred served as mayor from 1981 to 2013.

Other res­i­dents of Clarenville shared sim­i­lar thoughts.

“It’s a unique sit­u­a­tion,” said Derek Spurrell.

He sug­gested many peo­ple do not run for coun­cil be­cause of the amount of time and ef­fort the po­si­tion de­mands.

“I would say the big­gest de­ter­rent to be­ing on coun­cil in this town is the fact that it’s a busy job and it would take away a lot from your per­sonal life,” he said.

“If some­one is go­ing to be a coun­cil­lor in this town, it’s go­ing to be a busy job.”

One woman, who didn’t want to be iden­ti­fied, said she thought it was a shame there are no women on coun­cil.

The com­mu­ni­ties of El­lis­ton, Trin­ity Bay North, Trin­ity, Arnold’s Cove, and South­ern Har­bour also ac­claimed their mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments.

The mayor and deputy mayor are usu­ally de­cided by num­ber of votes; how­ever, these po­si­tions were not of­fi­cially des­ig­nated af­ter the elec­tion.

In a press re­lease is­sued lead­ing up to the elec­tion by Port Rex­ton busi­ness Fisher’s Loft, the com­mu­nity looked to dis­pel the no­tion there was dis­in­ter­est among mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties for lo­cal gov­ern­ment, and their crop of can­di­dates rep­re­sent peo­ple of all ages who look to help lead the town.

The re­lease calls the elec­tion, “an elec­toral con­test like never be­fore.”

This is a re­ac­tion to nine other towns in the re­gion that de­cided their coun­cils by ac­cla­ma­tion. There were only four ac­tual mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in

Rick Green­ing, who re­ceived 75 votes, was de­feated.

In a Face­book post, the Town of Port Bland­ford con­grat­u­lated all who par­tic­i­pated.

TERRA NOVA

Eight can­di­dates vied for a po­si­tion on Terra Nova coun­cil.

The fol­low­ing five have been suc­cess­ful in their can­di­dacy:

Terra Nova town clerk Thelma Green­ing noted there was close to 100 per cent voter turnout. Seventy-three bal­lots were cast.

Mayor and deputy mayor po­si­tions were of­fi­cially des­ig­nated af­ter the elec­tion.

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