Lead up to municipal vote a time to education, encourage civic participation

It is a thankless job, but someone has to do it.

This Tuesday, the filing period opened for candidates to declare their intentions to run for public office in the Oct 22 municipal election.

Reading the pages of this or any newspaper might be enough to deter people from putting their names forward to sit as councillors. They endure long meetings, receive endless stacks of briefing materials, and have to wrap their minds around wide-ranging concepts all while having to uphold laws put into the place at various levels of government — all while in the public eye. That some of the most pressing matters for their consideration have been snuffed out of their hands by the Green Energy Act and that their budgeting is directly linked to transfers made available by other levels of government can make municipal governance a real chore — and that’s before one considers the hours of e-mails and phone calls at all hours for things they may or may not have the power to fix at the time or at all. It’s not for the faint of heart.

That said, this isn’t the time to discourage people from deciding to become involved in municipal politics. Citizen input is a valued and needed element of our democratic system and municipal representatives do have a direct opportunity to provide leadership and shepherd positive change. It is vitally important the public at large have an opportunity to hear from a diverse mix of people about the way their communities should be governed over the next four years. There’s a place for opinions from young adults and from seniors. Women are still statistically under represented in municipal politics in Canada. Voices from those who have been marginalized or left out of economic discussions in the past may also help to shape policies for the future.Continued analysis of what factors attract qualified, varied candidates would be beneficial moving forward.

There have been events to educate and encourage new people to run already this year and it is expected more will take place in the coming weeks until the nomination period closes. Those who are interested in the communities they live in should take advantage of these resources and should not be afraid to reach out to municipal staff or current politicians with their questions in hopes of easing apprehension about the job and, if satisfied, mounting a campaign.

Those without any interest in running should also take the opportunity to become engaged in the election process as it unfolds so that they may understand the issues better and be able to cast their ballots for people who share their vision for the future with eyes wide open. The bluster at public meetings and in advertising in the coming months will dictate how that vision unfolds over the next council’s term. There’s also much to be gleaned in the discussions about the workings of municipal government.

Each year, when residents get their tax bills, there is a lot of discussion and consternation about decisions being made and, often, the talks might be framed differently if more people understood the budgetary pressures and legislative framework that shapes budgetary and planning discussions. Now is the time for learning and for leadership to emerge.

-Adam Bramburger