How many times over the last months have we watched and read the news from around the world and felt deeply grateful that we live where we do? With what often seems to be a never-ending series of disasters, natural and man-made, happening around the globe, the problems we face in Canada, Ontario, and our own communities, seem far less serious than they otherwise would.
It may be impossible for us to imagine that regular families, parents, children, doctors, plumbers, teachers, all strata of a society, can find themselves going from their regular routine lives to living as exiles, refugees, homeless and at war. It can happen suddenly and completely outside of your control: whether your home is destroyed by floods and fires, or bombs and terrorism. The families drifting around the Mediterranean, crammed onto leaking and sinking boats, were once living in their own homes, going to school and work, and chatting with their neighbours.
A million people are ordered to evacuate their homes before the threat of hurricanes and tornadoes. Wildfires sweep down and destroy the homes and businesses that took sacrifice and years to build. Citizens, whose families had lived in a country for generations, are now labelled as “ immigrants” and “foreigners” because of the colour of their skin, or the place where they worship.
No-one is saying that North Grenville is perfect and without problems (well, perhaps some are; but that’s an issue for another day, and a highly-skilled therapist). But we are free to speak, to share ideas, and to choose our own representatives. That is something we should never take for granted. Yes, we can criticise and point out problems we face; but, as I like to say: we chose to live here. And many others are choosing to do so too. As our population grows, it is vital that the new kids in town are included and made an integral part of our community. This includes getting informed and involved in this coming election.
Four years ago, something like 40% of the electorate actually cast a vote. And yet, municipal government has a greater impact on our daily lives than even the provincial and federal ones do. What council and staff decide in their regular meetings affects everyone, whether you own, rent, work in or outside the area, or whether you’ve just arrived or lived here all your life.
Twelve people are running to represent residents of North Grenville on council, for the magnificent benefit of less than $20,000 a year. They are not super heroes, just regular people like you and me, with strengths and weaknesses, qualities and downsides like everyone else. We’re asked to make a choice between them: one that we only have to make once every four years. Not too onerous.
This is not preaching, this is also a matter of self-interest. We have a wonderful community, one that excels in taking care of each other, volunteering and supporting those who volunteer. We have schools, a wonderful hospital, doctors, local businesses who get involved in keeping things happening. We work hard and pay our taxes, and we want to be sure that those responsible for spending our taxes do it efficiently and effectively. To make that choice, we have to try and get to know the candidates as much as we can, given the time and limited opportunities we have to do so.
So, the upcoming series of candidates meetings are a chance to do that. Some of those running are well-known to us, while others are comparative strangers. Whatever happens, we’ll have a new council after October 22. One current member isn’t running. Two others are going for the job of Mayor, and one or both may lose. Two others are running for re-election, one or both may succeed. But the new council will have new faces, whatever else happens. If you settled here since the last election, get out and see what’s on offer. If you’ve been around a while, what questions or issues do you have to raise? This is our chance and our opportunity. We don’t want the life we have, the community we enjoy and which has been inherited by us from previous generations, to suffer decay or stagnation. And we don’t want it to be lost in a wilderness of undirected growth that destroys what we value about our neighbourhoods. North Grenville deserves better.