It is often said that municipal politicians are the closest to their electors, being likely to actually be a neighbour and/or friend. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, therefore, that turnouts in municipal elections tend to run from the sparse to dismal.
If your local council is doing a good job (likely keeping them from being top of voters’ minds on a day-to-day basis) then perhaps the existing council members could deserve your support against challengers, but sadly, the plain truth is that it is more often when the electorate is unhappy with the performance of their elected officials that people tend to pay attention. The adage “voters don’t elect governments, they fire them” is never truer than when it comes to local elections—people are far more likely to vote when they are angry about something and then woe betide the candidate whose stance has raised their hackles.
Municipal council seats are often filled with those who have the time to devote to the numerous meetings and research necessary to carefully allocate the taxpayers’ tithe—read retirees, other pensioners or those of independent means—but a broader field bringing wider viewpoints to the table often provides the best reflection of a community’s needs. Those needs are among those most directly impacting a resident’s daily life, making who is representing you on the local municipal council an important decision at election time and one that deserves consideration.
The Expositor devotes a great deal of the editorial real estate available within its pages to candidate profiles and campaigns during the days and weeks leading up to elections. This commitment by the paper is intended to allow for a greater understanding of the issues and stances of each candidate among the electorate, those people whose decisions will impact the next four years.
It is rare that someone steps up for public office, especially at the local level, in order to gain power or wealth—truth be told, municipalities do not pay our elected council members a princely sum for their efforts on our behalf and council’s powers are clearly set down and established by provincial authority, which sets clear boundaries to their scope of authority. Municipal candidates nearly always tend to be motivated by a love of their communities and have its best interests at heart.
That being said, it is still important to take a look at just who it is that is asking for your support, because a vigilant electorate is the best defence for our democracy and helps ensure madness does not take control.
The Expositor is an important source of the information an elector can use to make an informed decision, but this newspaper is not the sole source. Take a moment to ask a friend or neighbour for their thoughts and reasons behind their voting choices. While you are at it, remind them to vote.
We are blessed to live in a truly democratic society (social media rants notwithstanding,) but the quality of our democracy extends only as far as the exercise of the electorate’s vigilance.
So let’s make this the year Manitoulin Island municipalities have a record turnout at the polls, whether you are looking to fire someone or just express your gratitude for a job well done, get out and vote and help get the vote out.
It’s your community—take charge.