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Change. Or not to change?

Steve Campbell

Steve Campbell

It’s been a busy year, but I had to squeeze in some time for one column before Monday’s municipal vote.
No, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, just so you can wipe your brow and go “Whew!” and blame the next four years on me.
I do have some observations to share on this process which sets the stage, supposedly, for our future in the County.
First, there seems to be a call amongst the voters for ‘change’. I hear this every election, and yet for some reason we insist on planting the same people back in the same seats. What change can possibly be expected, I have no idea.
Second, I was asked to be moderator for two candidates debates: Athol and Hallowell. I have to say that all candidates presented themselves very well, making it an even tougher choice. It’s also worthy of note that a lot of thoughtful, energetic people have put themselves on the line to represent us in our local council. And their hearts are clearly in the right place.

My Shock Treatment
After forming my list of questions for the candidates meetings, I stumbled across a file on my computer: a list of questions from four years ago, when I was moderator for the 2010 Hallowell debates.
I was shocked at what I saw. Almost all of the questions I wrote for this year’s group were on my list of questions from four years ago! If I’d remembered that, it would have saved me a lot of work!

County budget? Check. Wind Turbines? Check. Strong hospital? Preservation of Heritage? Job Creation? Check, check check. All of these, which I unknowingly rewrote last week, are still on the list of County concerns.
All that talk, and all those hopes for change and improvement were somehow lost in the passing time. And they remain problems today.

I don’t fault our Council for this. It simply confirms what I have long believed: When you sit in the councillor’s chair, you are immediately deluged with the day-to-day operation of the County as a multi-million-dollar Corporation.
All of the ideas and ideals which originally led you to aim for the councillor’s seat slowly fade into the darkness. After the job of haggling out the budget is done – with millions flying everywhere like poker chips in Vegas – there’s little time or motivation to focus on Council-led initiatives to improve our present and plan for our future.

We must also consider that even the greatest ideas pitched onto the table are subject to the approval of a roomful of people of varying backgrounds, with different interests.
In short, it’s about the worst imaginable environment to see innovative thinking turned into useful action.
Experienced councillors also know that there is only so much a council can do. I noticed this during the debates.
You can take a firm stand for a strong hospital or against wind turbines. But the reality is, the province controls both of these with an iron fist, and the Ministers of Health, Environment and Energy care very, very little about what we or our council have to say.
The same thing applies to roads in the County. Though we do pay enormous amounts to maintain our infrastructure, seasoned councillors know that the feds and the province hold the ultimate purse­ strings, and divvy the money out according to their own rules, not our needs.
And make no mistake, this is not a handout. It is our money. Every time we fuel up and pay gas tax, every time we renew our licence, every time we buy a vehicle, or tires … we pay the province to keep our roads maintained.
When it comes to job creation and employment opportunities, Council turns the other cheek. By this I mean they say that these should be ‘community-driven’. In other words: “Not our job”. In a way this is good, if business people were actually encouraged to build business. As renegade MPP Randy Hillier was quoted as saying: “The greatest obstacle to business in Ontario is the government,” and I agree.

As you can see, our municipal council has carved out a hammock between what the province is supposed to do, and what the people are supposed to do. The result? Nothing, which is exactly what we’ve seen in four years.
We are no further ahead in building a system in which heritage buildings are respected, while considering the needs of the homeowners and neighbours. Available jobs are driven by the business owners alone, and are almost completely tourism- or service-oriented.

Still, we ask a lot from our Council. Partly because everyone has a different idea of what Council is supposed to do.
Do we elect them to maintain a budget, locate revenues and pay bills? In which case were are electing bookkeepers. Is it to establish bylaws to control our activities and watch for our safety and well-being? In which case we are electing supervisors.

Is it to plan for our future? To maintain our quality of life? To help us grow and prosper? Clearly there is no system in place to do any of these things, yet we have high expectations that handing this job to an elected official will bring terrific results.

It’s a strange thing, because I see candidates who dearly want to help our communities. They bring their hopes and dreams to the table, and that’s a wonderful thing. Hell, I live by hopes and dreams.
With respect to those who become our new slate of councillors, sometimes talk is unintentionally cheap.
I hope they can cling to the ideas and ideals they hold right now, and bring their brilliant goals into action. That will effect change and charge the County with renewed energy.
And it would be much more fun than watching our $45 million debt grow.
Meanwhile, I made a mental note to keep this year’s question list active for another four years, to save me a lot of time in 2018.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Marc says:

    I blame some of the candidates for the low turnout as well. In this day and age, if you can’t get your act together to get a website made with your platform, I’m not voting for you. It was so difficult to figure out what the candidates in Ameliasburgh were for or against that I almost didn’t vote. Not everyone can get to all candidates meetings, and the reporting of them was lacklustre. I hope that in 4 years they’ll all be recorded and broadcast for those of us with busy lives.

  2. Gary says:

    14 out of 16 predictions isn”t too bad.

  3. Gary says:

    Time for a Poll on Successful Election Candidates (if for nothing else but fun!)

    Mayor – Quaiff (experience and leadership wins out)

    Ward 1 Picton – Hull, Epstein (will be an interesting tight race for all 6)

    Ward 2 Bloomfield – Turpin (Guaranteed, hahaha)

    Ward 3 Wellington – Dunlop (Ladies split their vote)

    Ward 4 Amelisburgh – O”Brien, Maynard, Pennell (they all seem to speak the same words)

    Ward 5 Athol – Forrester (nailbiter, VanHecke has a shot, possible recount)

    Ward 6 Hallowell – MacDonald, Nieman (mix of youth and old as dirt)

    Ward 7 Hillier – Lunn ( another nailbiter)

    Ward 8 Noth Marysburgh – Harrison (If not born there forget it)

    Ward 9 South Marysburgh – Ferguson ( local)

    Ward 10 Sophiasburgh – Gale leads, Roberts wins in a duel with Shortt)

  4. Gary says:

    JYBE has reached some astounding conclusions about commenters on this site. Wonder if he or she would like to tell us how they gathered the facts to support that analysis.

    I know I attend Council meetings regularly and I have no reason to believe others do not as well.

  5. Wolf Braun says:

    Chris Keen: “This from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.“Municipal Government…The powers of municipal governments are determined by the provincial government. Municipal governments in Ontario are responsible for providing many of the services within their local boundaries that you rely on daily such as:”

    Long list. Makes one wonder how to fund all of that. 🙂

    Time to look at the PURPOSE of Provincial Government. 🙂

  6. Wolf Braun says:

    Some of us complain about a disengaged electorate, and here we are spoon feeding them who to vote for (Wellington Times, Oct. 22/154). I don’t support that at all. Make the news meaningful and exciting and then people will read it and make up their own minds.

    People / voters are not engaged enough. Voter turnout is low. Attendance at candidate debates are so so. People rely on family and friends on who to vote for. Endorsements are a quick fix to let this type of voter know how to mark their ballot. That’s not helping meaningful engagement

    It’s one thing for large media corporation’s editorial boards to interview Mayoral candidates behind closed doors and then reveal who they support. It’s entirely subjective for a small market paper to endorse 22 candidates for Council and one of 3 candidates for Mayor. They simply can’t do an editorial board in-depth interview of 25 candidates.

    Endorsements from privately owned media reflects subjectivity.

  7. Chris Keen says:

    This from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

    “Municipal Government
    The powers of municipal governments are determined by the provincial government. Municipal governments in Ontario are responsible for providing many of the services within their local boundaries that you rely on daily such as:

    Airports; Ambulance; Animal Control and By-law Enforcement; Arts and Culture; Child Care; Economic Development; Fire Services; Garbage Collection and Recycling; Electric Utilities; Library Services; Long Term Care and Senior Housing; Maintenance of Local Road Network; Parks and Recreation; Public Transit; Planning New Community Developments and Enhancing Existing Neighbourhoods; Police Services; Property Assessment; Provincial Offences Administration; Public Health; Side Walks; Snow Removal; Social Services; Social Housing;
    Storm Sewers; Tax Collection; Water and Sewage”

  8. JYBE says:

    Steve,

    Finally, someone has a true understanding of what Council does and the confines within which it must operate. How appropriate that you could explain things using such a small ammount of print compared to the comment area of Wellington’s community paper. I applaud you.

    The vocal minority that continually frequents these pages only awakes every four years to complain about what their friends, relatives, and fellow County folk have been doing wrong. If they paid as much attention to their Council during it’s term as they do to those stirring the pot, PEC would be a better place. How often has anyone here attended a Council meeting to see and hear, first hand what is going on?

    They crave to hear what potential candidates will do differently, what platforms are being brought forwarded to make themselves feel better about their involvement in politics. Platforms that are meaningless, as meaningless as supporting a candidate whose only life experience is being under 35.

    Thanks again Steve, your insight is so refreshing. I think I’ll get a piece of County cheese to go with the whine I am confident will be forthcoming.

  9. Wolf Braun says:

    SC: “Still, we ask a lot from our Council. Partly because everyone has a different idea of what Council is supposed to do. Do we elect them to maintain a budget, locate revenues and pay bills? In which case were are electing bookkeepers. Is it to establish bylaws to control our activities and watch for our safety and well-being? In which case we are electing supervisors. Is it to plan for our future? To maintain our quality of life? To help us grow and prosper? Clearly there is no system in place to do any of these things, yet we have high expectations that handing this job to an elected official will bring terrific results”

    Have you learned nothing about the value of PURPOSE & PRINCIPLES Steve ?

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