Engaged candidates needed to run for municipal office
Woolwich & Wellesley Township's Local Community Newspaper | Elmira, Ontario, Canada
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Engaged candidates needed to run for municipal office

With just three weeks for candidates to complete the necessary paperwork – the deadline is August 19 – time is ticking for those who’d like to run for municipal office in the October municipal elections.

Now is the time for those eager to see positive improvements in their communities to step forward. Healthy competition is a good thing, that’s for certain, even if some of the candidates bring strong credentials to the table. No matter what, there will be changes to the makeup of both councils.

Still, 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.

Municipal elections have long been plagued by low voter turnout. Don’t expect this year to be any different. And that’s a shame, and not only for the obvious reasons. Looking ahead, it just might be that small local democracies play a big role in preserving our way of life.

Small and local are already buzzwords in farming: we’re catching on to the fact food produced close to home on family farms provides widespread benefits.

In the bigger picture, a return to localized activities and small-scale farming represent something of an antidote to the growth mantra that permeates our culture – “go big or go home” doesn’t benefit us.

Growth-related issues have been on display in the townships of late. Growth – i.e. development – is likely the most divisive and galvanizing issue in municipal politics (think of past debates over Walmart and slots, right through to gravel pits). Change almost always fosters resistance. That’s especially true as much of the change is not for the better.

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.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
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