County ac­cla­ma­tions a sign of dis­in­ter­est in ru­ral pol­i­tics

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion -

So, J. Mur­ray Jones has been ac­claimed war­den and things are back to nor­mal at Peter­bor­ough County coun­cil.

Fail­ure to have any­one con­test the war­den’s elec­tion is not some­thing county res­i­dents, and politi­cians, should be happy about – but it does seem to be the norm.

Jones, who sits on county coun­cil as mayor of DouroDum­mer Twp., held the war­den’s of­fice for seven years be­gin­ning in 2010, al­ways by ac­cla­ma­tion.

Two years ago, Joe Tay­lor, then deputy reeve of Oton­abee-South Mon­aghan Twp., de­feated Jones for the war­den’s of­fice. But Tay­lor, now reeve, has de­cided he will not run again.

With the ex­cep­tion of Mayor Jones, nei­ther will any of the other 14 county coun­cil mem­bers.

It is hard to say why only Jones seems to want the po­si­tion. It is some­thing of a cer­e­mo­nial of­fice, but the war­den is the face and pres­ence of the county at pub­lic events and gets ex­tra in­flu­ence by be­ing in reg­u­lar con­tact with county staff, who do a lot of pri­or­ity set­ting and pol­icy de­vel­op­ment.

Per­haps the re­luc­tance to step up and serve as war­den is just a re­flec­tion of the gen­eral short­age of can­di­dates in town­ship elec­tions in gen­eral.

Both Jones and Tay­lor know how that works. Each was ac­claimed as the head of his own coun­cil in the re­cent Oc­to­ber mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions.

And they are not alone. The eight town­ships elect a to­tal of 40 coun­cil rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Nine of those of­fices were filled by ac­cla­ma­tion this year.

That’s dis­turb­ing. In nearly 25 per cent of po­ten­tial elec­tion races, no more than one per­son was in­ter­ested enough to make the ef­fort to rep­re­sent his or her ward – or in the case of Douro-Dum­mer and Oton­abee-South Mon­aghan the en­tire town­ship as mayor or reeve.

Dis­in­ter­est in run­ning for mu­nic­i­pal of­fice is not con­fined to Peter­bor­ough County. Ac­cla­ma­tions have be­come a provincewide and na­tion­wide is­sue. How­ever, much of the re­search on where and why it is hap­pen­ing fo­cuses on ur­ban cen­tres.

A lot of the or­ga­nized ef­fort to get more can­di­dates run­ning fo­cuses on women, who are par­tic­u­larly un­der­rep­re­sented.

Which might be the an­swer to im­prov­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Peter­bor­ough County.

With ref­er­ence to the war­den’s po­si­tion, the last fe­male war­den was Doris Brick, long­time reeve of En­nis­more. She held the of­fice three times but her fi­nal term was in 1991, nearly 30 years ago.

There has not been a wo­man war­den since.

Which is per­haps be­cause there are so few women on county coun­cil – three of six­teen coun­cil­lors dur­ing the four-year term that just ended and the same num­ber for the in­com­ing coun­cil.

Why so few women in the county cham­ber? Be­cause even in elec­tion races with too few can­di­dates over­all, women are no­tice­ably ab­sent.

As we noted ear­lier, five of the eight town­ships ac­claimed at least one coun­cil mem­ber. In Sel­wyn three of five were ac­claimed.

In those five town­ships, just 10 of 43 can­di­dates were women.

Yet women who did run were spec­tac­u­larly suc­cess­ful. Eight of those 10 were ei­ther elected or ac­claimed.

In the City of Peter­bor­ough, a well-or­ga­nized cam­paign to at­tract and sup­port women can­di­dates is show­ing suc­cess. The in­com­ing mayor and three of 10 coun­cil­lors are women.

Peter­bor­ough County vot­ers just showed they are very will­ing to elect women can­di­dates. That should make it eas­ier to find them, and solve the dis­turb­ing prob­lem of ac­cla­ma­tions.

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