It's that time again. With just a hint of chill in the air, with leaves swirling in the grips of gusts of bluster wind, with darkness eating daylight by degrees we close in upon the scariest time of the year - Municipal Elections!
Our little township (municipalities across our province, for that matter) is in the grip of that every four year ritual. Usually, municipal elections in this neck of the woods are a civil affair. Two or more fairly decent, well-meaning folks square off for a voice on our local council to direct the growth of our community for the new four years.
I like municipal politics. I like municipal politics far more than I like provincial or federal politics. There are a few reasons.
The first is impact. The impact of decisions made at my local council are felt much more profoundly than are those at other levels of government, and by that I mean in my day to day dealings and those of all members of my family.
The second is accessibility. I happen to be fortunate when it comes to accessibility for all levels of government. My local MP shops at the same grocery store as me and rents his videos at the same place. My local MPP lives one street up and a couple of streets over from me. His kids treat-or-treat at my house and I know that I can stop him any time to bend his ear. My local councillors and mayor are freely available to me.
The third is transparency and decency achieved through the lack of party politics. There are no political parties at the municipal level of government. I think this leads to better representational government where an elected councillor is accountable to his or her constituents and not to a political machine or party platform or philosophy.
In my municipality, unfortunately, a quartet of candidates have banded together to form what I have dubbed, "The Coalition of the Damned". I figure it's a nice scary name so close to Hallowe'en. They are four men (no ladies, thanks) who are running on a platform of hiring freezes, spending cuts and no new projects. Now, fiscal responsibility is important - very important - but I have yet to hear a single word about how any of these four will maintain core services (water, sewage, keeping the roads plowed etc) while keeping our community's very active sports and arts programs operating at levels which will support a growing population. If these four men (did I mention that they were unable or perhaps unwilling, to get a female recruit to run?) are elected my vibrant, active community will see four years of drudgery and stagnation under the unimaginative leadership of a quartet of Fox News Wannabes.
I think I find the whole thing bothersome because this kind of combined platform candidacy - where people run in wards in which they do not live - is not and should not be welcomed into the civil discourse which usually is found in our most local politics. I look for committed members of the community who will make informed, rational and comprehensive decisions that take into account the spirit of the community and not simply the dollars and cents.
I don't know how my little local election will pan out, but I have faith in my community. I am hopeful that the moderate, thoughtful and rational people will take the time to cast a ballot and make their voices heard. What worries me is that they won't. It worries me because I know with a cold grim certainty that the irrational, frightened people always find the time to vote.