County acclamations a sign of disinterest in rural politics
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.