‘It doesn’t speak well for democracy’
Former mayor Fred Best, residents weigh in on Clarenville acclamation
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.
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.