A municipal council is only as good as its citizens

The dust has settled and the ballots counted in the Ontario municipal election 2018 and (hopefully) the people have spoken clearly in electing the chosen few who will guide our municipal governments forward through the next four years.

The future promises to be challenging, with a new government settled into Queen’s Park sharpening its axe and eyeing up government spending, and captains steering the Island ships of state will need to be nimble if they are going to avoid the shoals. Most experienced council members have voiced concerns about the potential downloading onto municipal coffers those cuts are likely to entail. “We’ve been down this road before” being a common refrain.

Time in that regard will tell.

But today is a new day, and many municipal mayors, reeves and councillors will be taking their seats around council tables in a few short weeks, ready to roll up their sleeves and meet the challenges ahead.

It is not an easy thing to put yourself forward as a candidate, to offer your heart and soul on the altar of public service, so each and every one of those citizens who did step up to the job deserve our admiration and gratitude, even the ones with whom an individual elector does not agree with, or particularly like, and especially those who did not make the final cut.

Going forward, those candidates who were elected to their positions still need our support. There are decisions to be made in the coming years, some of which will be difficult and quite possibly unpopular. It is important that we recognize that the vast majority of those who have put their names forward do so with the very best of intentions and keep that fact foremost in our minds.

It is important that we engage with our elected officials. There is an old saying that “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” But even if you do vote, remember that the people that have been elected are human beings and that they deserve to be treated with respect (even those you did not personally vote for). More so, they will need your help and support to do the best job possible.

A mayor, reeve or council member is just one person, a human being who likely (but not necessarily) comes with one set of eyes and one pair of ears with which to see and hear the community around them. If you have an opinion on an issue facing your municipality, express that opinion, politely, to your elected representative. Your point of view may be valid, but it also may not have occurred to that elected official that a course of action would have the impact it does on their constituent. Let them know your concerns.

The recent outpouring of vitriol that social media seems to be encouraging and amplifying in this oh-so-digital age does little good, and too often much harm. Let us move forward in our communities with a positive attitude and an eye to building bridges and better lives for every one of our neighbours.

For those candidates who put their names forward and were not chosen, do not despair. Politics can be a brutal environment, but you can hold your head high for you are among those very few individuals who are actively trying to make your community a better place. Do not stop trying.

As for those who now sit on the municipal hot seat, use your senses (and sense) to weigh the merits of the decisions that lie before you through the lens of what is best for your entire community. Too often politicians only use the weight of political gain when deciding how to proceed, making what they know to be bad decisions because they know it will be popular with some segment of their friends.

Integrity, transparency and accountability are everyone’s catchphrases, but strive to take those virtues beyond mere electoral platitudes and weave them into the very fabric of your service.

Remember that our national constitution is based on peace, order and good government, and let that be your guide for the next four years.