MUNICIPALITIES IN SEARCH OF GOOD CANDIDATES
THE NOMINATION PERIOD FOR candidates running in this year’s municipal elections having opened, now would be a good time for some right-minded citizens to think about doing some good as municipal councillors.
It’s early days – the nomination period runs through July 27 – but already there’s been some movement, with a few incumbents and newcomers having filed their papers. There’s always room for more.
Whether or not you agree the incumbents are doing a good job or like what the newcomers bring, putting them through the trial of a widely-contested election is a good thing: good for voters, good for debate and, most of all, good for democracy.
For that reason, we’re calling on public-minded citizens in both townships to come forward and stand for election – the pay’s not too great (mayors’ aside), the hours erratic, the public ungrateful and the media coverage scathing, but aside from that, it’s a great job and a way to both shape and serve the community where you live.
Municipal councils do have a great deal of influence over the quality of life in their communities. That’s especially true in the townships, where even small decisions can have a noticeable impact. Because that’s the case, it’s even more important to have community-minded people at the helm, those with the drive to enhance the quality of life here.
From our perspective, that requires candidates who are willing to act in the interests of the public. That seems self-evident, but in Woolwich particularly that’s far too often not the case. As with the bureaucrats to which councillors often defer, the elected officials conflate their interests with those of the citizenry. Co-opted into the bubble, they take on the mindset of the public sector employees whose interests are increasingly at odds with residents’ needs, particularly when it comes to spending priorities and keeping budgets under control.
For the system to work properly, even municipal politics must be like the legal system: adversarial. When warranted, council members must be at odds with staff and even with each other, as debate makes for better representation. Unfortunately, such democratic and accountable action is in short supply.
With aging infrastructure putting mounting pressure on budgets at the same time as most Ontarians face rising costs, particularly for housing, and stagnating incomes, something’s got to give. That will require council decisions that puts the public’s needs ahead of administrative and program spending that serves few if any residents. Properly engaged councillors will identify cuts and stick with doing what’s best for residents, bringing their own strength to an environment that will try to co-opt them.
While candidates will often talk about limiting tax increases, the real questions revolve around what gets done with the money that’s collected. Clearly, money spent on padding the bureaucracy and its members’ pockets is money wasted, unproductive dollars that could be used for proper purposes of value to the public.
The ability to make such decisions is the paramount trait to keep in mind when contemplating whether to take the plunge and put your name on the ballot for your fellow residents to choose on October 22.
Voters, too, should take note.