Will we all suffer through universal suffrage?

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Added: Wed, 10/05/2016 - 10:26pm
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Allyson Beauregard

The issue of universal suffrage has risen again at the MRC Pontiac, this time in a report titled “2017 Municipal Elections: Election of Warden by Universal Suffrage” which details the results of an in-house survey of the 14 Quebec MRCs that elect their warden by universal suffrage; it was tabled at the last Council of Mayors meeting (see page 3).
It’s a hot topic since the decision to allow the public to select the region’s warden from a pool of residents who submit their candidacy - rather than our current system where the mayors vote for the warden from among their elected peers - would be irreversible.
Since there’s no room for a change of heart after the dotted line has been signed, it’s an issue that requires some serious consideration and careful thought.
The recent report was certainly a step in the right direction by consulting with those who have already walked the walk rather than relying on
optimistic predictions. The fact that all of the MRCs stated without hesitation that they would not return to their old formula is reassuring, especially since the majority of these MRCs also closely matched the Pontiac’s profile in terms of population and income per capita.
The MRCs also listed the benefits of the move, such as the increased
availability of the warden and leverage with officials. However, these benefits don’t come cheap. In addition to the costs of the election that can reach up to $100,000 every four years, taxpayers will also be required to fork out almost double for a full-time warden’s salary.
Can the Pontiac afford it? Is it worth the cost? Will the move make the Pontiac any less forgotten and overlooked than in the past? Would the funds be put to better use if we invested it in, for example, scholarships for post-secondary education, improving infrastructure, donations to local causes like the dialysis fund, improving school playgrounds, etc? An approximate $250,000 every four years ($100,000 for the election and $35,000 per year extra in salary) could go a long way!
In addition, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better; a larger pool of candidates doesn’t guarantee a better one is available for the position and there is always the chance that someone less qualified, with less experience than our elected officials could be elected.
Let’s not jump before we think!