This may seem a little premature, but we need to start thinking about the next municipal election. It doesn’t actually happen until October 22 of next year, but nominations can start as early as May 1, so interested parties have to start planning their moves very soon. Nominations close on July 27, by the way.
For many people, the municipal council may seem a minor player in their lives, not as important as the provincial or federal representatives. (Oh, and the provincial election is happening on June 7 next). But municipal councils have authority over such day-to-day practicalities as roads, local policing, ambulances, parks and recreation, and water and sewers: and they also levy your municipal taxes. Therefore, it is really quite important that we have an active and creative group of people sitting at the council table: something North Grenville has seldom, if ever, enjoyed.
Here’s a rather shocking statistic: between amalgamation in 1998 and 2015, not one Councillor ever introduced a Resolution in Council. This means that not one of the people elected during that period actually initiated a single thing. Instead, it seems that all they ever did was vote on whatever municipal staff put in front of them. That is not what we elect people to do, is it? To date, only Councillors Bertram and Arnaud have introduced initiatives – pretty bad after almost 20 years of North Grenville councils.
So it is not just the potential candidates who have to start thinking ahead. We, the voters, the taxpayers, have to start thinking too. What kind of person do we want to elect? I believe we need people who are already involved in the community in some fashion: not Johnny-come-latelys who decide on a whim that maybe they’d like to have the title and status of Councillor (status?). Not someone who has an ego bigger than the municipality, who treats voters as irrelevant after the votes are counted.
Councilors and mayors are not meant to represent a political party: they stand for election as individuals, and this makes municipal elections very different from any other level. They must have the same credentials as those eligible to vote: someone who, on the day of the election, is: 18 years of age or older; a Canadian citizen; and either a resident of the municipality or a property owner or tenant or the spouse or same sex partner of an owner or tenant in the municipality during a specified time just before the election. To be able to vote, your name must be on the list of eligible voters.
There is another deadline of which we have to be aware. If Council want to ask residents their opinion on issues such as introducing a ward system, having a larger council, or any other municipal issue, they have to pass a bylaw before May 1. Just a thought. I don’t expect the current council to actually have an initiative to put to voters, but it might be good if they knew that was an option before them.
Generally speaking, people already on councils tend to run again. In fact, only something like 25% of new candidates get elected, so the odds are stacked heavily in favour of incumbents. This is another reason for anyone thinking of running next year to start planning now. They will need to get their names and faces out there, so that they’ll have a chance of their name standing out when voters look at the ballot paper next October. That statistic should also be a warning and a reprimand to voters: it means that we are generally lazy when it comes to the vote. If we are re-electing incumbents to that extent, I very much doubt that it’s because they are such outstanding councillors. The experience of North Grenville councils backs that up more than adequately. Councillors have not been active, not been creative, not had a clear vision of where they want to see North Grenville go in future, yet we keep electing them anyway.
Over the coming months, the Times will publish articles about municipal government, how it works, how to get involved, and, especially, how this current lot are doing. The aim is ensure that we, the voters and taxpayers, are informed enough to cast their votes in October. We are all free to vote for whomever we wish, and that is the beauty of democracy. But we have the responsibility to do so from a position of informed consent. That requires us to be informed. That requires, in turn, that we know the facts, the records, the qualifications, of those standing before us, asking for our endorsement as they make the decisions over the following four years that will affect our future as a community. The race is on.