Sunday, August 10, 2014

Municipal Elections

Aug. 10, 2014 Dear Editor; Municipal elections, or the next season of political activity will be upon us this fall. Although municipal candidates and elected officials are often our neighbors and co-workers, municipal elections frequently receive less attention than their provincial and federal counterparts. Being careful to not be over zealous (or politely put, not be a pest to these people) municipal candidates and those elected to municipal office are more accessible than any other politician. Federal or provincial officials are accessible when they are in the riding, but their availability pales relative to how often a resident of a municipality will be able to interact with their councilor, trustee and/or mayor. Participating in or viewing local council meetings or simply being able to quickly access a politician living in the community represents a greatly enhanced ability to educate, influence or debate on an issue or issues that will have immediate impact in the community. With nowhere near the majority of the electorate casting a vote to establish majority provincial or federal governments, the recent trend to less engaged voters is costing Canadians dearly as these governments legislate more and more on behalf of the rich and corporate elite and less and less on behalf of all working Canadians. Municipal elections are not responsible for majority governments, but municipal elections are responsible for elected officials that have immediate impact in their community. Many people in Canada, from union members to anti-poverty activists, work tirelessly to effect change that will stem the profound and devastating damage done to working Canadians by a vast array of provincial and federal governments elected not on their merit, but too often by apathy. Every working Canadian needs to thank these activists, but there is no tool more effective in changing the direction of government policy at all levels than informed voters getting out and voting. There must be no mistake that those executing and planning an agenda contrary to the interests of ordinary Canadians have inexhaustible resources and a never ending supply of ethical decay. Resources that they will use to convince people to vote against their own self interests; self interests such as a decent minimum wage, safe workplaces, workplaces with defined benefit pensions and benefits, the right to organize and more. A certain level of surprise is usually present when people start to come to the realization that municipal elections represent a significant opportunity to engage their municipal officials and to generate changes that will benefit working people. Representing over three million Canadian workers, the Canadian Labour Congress through Union affiliates, progressive organizations and local Labour Councils invests considerable effort in the “Municipalities Matters” campaign. The title of the campaign calls out the tangible changes that voters can make by being engaged in their municipal elections and by voting for candidates with a stated desire to work for progressive change in their communities. There is no level of government except the municipal level where carefully considered votes and involvement with local municipal officials by the electorate will have such a tangible result on setting policy on such profound issues as collective bargaining for municipal workers/police/paramedics/fire and others, establishing policy on items like minimum wage (as has been successfully done in Seattle for example), establishing “buy Canadian” policies, governance for local utilities and even in Kincardine the controversial issues associated with the Deep Geological Repository for low and intermediate waste. Educated voters getting out and voting in every election is hugely important. Perhaps with the knowledge of how important municipal elections are the fall elections will see a significant surge in voter turnout. Who knows, this may translate into a wave of voter engagement and the right wing and the corporations will have considerably less influence on the election outcome. A wave of voter engagement is the biggest fear of right wing governments and the corporate elite. Dave Trumble Kincardine

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