Commentary – Local elections are the closest to home

Richard Froese


Local government elections return Oct. 16 and the campaign has already started!

Elections can get heated and contentious, particularly if elected officials have made questionable or objectionable decisions in office.

No other community process seems to engage residents more than electing municipal councils and school boards.

Local governments have the most direct impact to residents in the area they serve. Electors have no greater power than to vote for their elected councils and boards. Every vote counts, as long as it is valid and legal.

In most cases, particularly in small rural areas, voters and citizens know their candidates personally, unlike in provincial and federal elections.

Everybody has a valuable contribution in their local community at election time. First of all, nomination day is Sept. 18. New blood and new ideas are always welcomed to provide fresh views. That opens the door for new people to serve a four-year term.

Take a look around and consider who would be an effective member of municipal council or school board. Perhaps it may be in the mirror or a next-door neighbour. What person has a wide and positive view of their community and ideas?

A campaign was launched earlier this year by the provincial government to urge more women to run for municipal councils and school boards. That doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for small towns and villages and for school boards.

But, does gender really matter? Isn’t it more important to vote for the best candidate, rather than for somebody based on their gender, race or faith?

If people support candidates for those factors, they’re voting for the wrong reason. When the lists of eligible candidates are released and posted by the returning officers, take the time to consider each one.

Elections are a time for citizens to reflect on the past and focus on the future. What candidates from all the incumbents and challengers would be the best to move the community forward?

Study the candidates’ profiles featured in the local community newspaper. Attend an all-candidates’ forum and find out more about the candidates.

Most of all, voters can exercise their civic duty to vote on election day or at the advance poll. Municipal district and county councils often turn into lifetime positions. Or some voters may have the view that the incumbent can do the job as long as the person wants to.

Electors in some communities welcome change.

Take the Town of High Prairie in the last general election in 2013 where six newcomers filled all councillor seats. The mayor was re-elected after serving one year in a byelection.

Even in a byelection in February 2016, two newcomers filled the two vacant seats, as two former councillors were defeated. Three of the seven incumbents in Big Lakes County were unseated in the 2013 election.

Change is good and healthy for any community and government. Who are the best players on the team to move the ball in the next four years?

Voters and residents have more to do than get out to the polling station. Their obligation to their local government continues beyond voting and paying taxes.

Remain engaged and help keep your government on track to make your community a better place into the future.

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