Dis­sent and de­bate are healthy for our democ­racy

The Victoria Standard - - Commentary - FROM THE ED­I­TOR

In the two years that I have been cov­er­ing Vic­to­ria County Coun­cil meet­ings, I re­call one vote where the tally was not unan­i­mous. It was a 2016 meet­ing at which For­mer District 2 Coun­cil­lor Athol Grant made a mo­tion that was de­feated 5-2.

Be­fore and since that mo­ment, I have wit­nessed com­plete and ut­ter una­nim­ity in the vot­ing process. That does not mean I have al­ways wit­nessed com­plete agree­ment amongst Coun­cil­lors.

On Nov. 14, Coun­cil took up a re­quest by the Min­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of Nova Sco­tia (MANS) to write a let­ter to the Chron­i­cle Her­ald in sup­port of its po­si­tion on the prov­ince’s pro­tected ar­eas plan.

In con­sid­er­ing the re­quest, District 5 Coun­cil­lor Fraser Pat­ter­son gave a spir­ited de­fence of pro­tected lands and the county’s need to main­tain un­fet­tered land­scapes in sup­port of our tourism in­dus­try. He also al­luded to po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal threats from min­ing ac­tiv­ity and the dis­posal of byprod­ucts in our wa­ter­ways.

District 1 Coun­cil­lor Paul Mac­neil then took the op­por­tu­nity to re­mind coun­cil of the eco­nomic benefits that the county en­joyed dur­ing the long hay day of the Lit­tle Nar­rows Gyp­sum op­er­a­tion.

Just when things ap­peared to be get­ting in­ter­est­ing with a re­but­tal form­ing from Pat­ter­son, War­den Mor­ri­son stepped in to end the de­bate. To be fair, Mor­ri­son ap­peared to be act­ing pro­ce­du­rally in re­mind­ing coun­cil that the task at hand was a de­ci­sion on a re­quest, not an open de­bate on the virtues of pro­tected lands. How­ever, with a light agenda in front of them, what bet­ter time to al­low an open dis­cus­sion on the pros and cons of pro­tected lands? To date, Coun­cil is on record as vo­cally op­pos­ing any ad­di­tional land be­ing des­ig­nated for con­ser­va­tion. At the Nov. 14 meet­ing, Coun­cil ended de­bate, agreed it was not their hill to die on, and unan­i­mously passed a mo­tion to ta­ble the re­quest in­def­i­nitely.

In a po­lit­i­cal era where dis­sent and a ‘with us or against us’ men­tal­ity feels like the new norm, it is com­fort­ing to see a Coun­cil work­ing so co­op­er­a­tively. How­ever, let us not for­get the benefits of dis­sent and de­bate to our democ­racy. They en­sure as many per­spec­tives as pos­si­ble are be­ing con­sid­ered be­fore tak­ing ac­tion. When a split out­come arises, it should not be cause for con­cern that our rep­re­sen­ta­tives can­not get along. Rather, it demon­strates true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the peo­ple. If, as cit­i­zens, we are con­tent with a string of un­con­tested votes no mat­ter the is­sue at hand, why have eight sep­a­rate coun­cil­lors to rep­re­sent our voices?

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