Failure of democracy
There’s an old saying ‘people get the government they deserve’.
Which is true, because they are duly elected representatives of the people, chosen by the people, for the people. This is also a true statement in terms of acclamation.
If no one can be bothered to throw their name into the hat for an elected position, they are in no position to complain when the politician who walked into office does something they don’t like.
Judging from the nomination lists this municipal election this year has become a problem in Newfoundland. In a number of communities in the central area, and across the province, there are councils and mayors who didn’t have to try very hard at all for the honour of representing the people, because no one bothered to challenge them.
There are usually two main reasons governments and individuals get acclaimed, either they’re doing their jobs well or no one else cares enough to run for office. So what is the cause in this instance?
It would appear to be a mix of both or neither, depending on whom you talk to.
TC Community Newspapers certainly get their share of calls and letters from readers, who are both passionate about their communities and want to see things changed. But now that an election is upon us where are those people?
Some are running for office, but most would simply prefer to complain than make the effort to affect change.
There’s another argument it’s the process in the larger communities that can inhibit individuals from running for some positions such as mayor.
In Grand Falls-Windsor for example, if an incumbent councillor wanted to run it’s an all-or-nothing venture. They would have to run for mayor, not council and if they lose they’re out of the game entirely, at least until the next election.
This is the same in other medium-sized communities across the province, and certainly can prevent an ambitious councillor from making the jump.
And can communities such as Grand Falls-Windsor or Bishop’s Falls justify the additional cost and effort necessary for this separate race?
It’s certainly needed in communities such as St. John’s, Mount Pearl or Paradise, with their much larger populations but maybe it’s time to go back to the way it used to be done, and still is done in most communities.
Everyone runs for council and the one with the most votes becomes mayor, if they want it. If not, councillors vote among themselves.
This way it assures the person the community supports most becomes mayor, not just the only one willing to take the risk.
When a position such as mayor is uncontested, it’s a failure of the democratic process and there’s no one to blame but us.