Elect our MRC warden? Some questions

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The provincial government has proposed that MRC wardens be elected by a popular vote, rather than the present method of having the warden selected by the MRC’s council of mayors. This plan has found support and objection across the province, with some MRCs already opting for the popular vote, and others, like our own, sticking with the traditional method.
It’s unclear how the government will proceed; would Quebec City impose the new program or will each MRC be allowed to select its own method? 
How do we, the citizens of MRC Pontiac (and des Collines), feel? What are the arguments on both sides? Here are some considerations on this question. What is your reaction? 
In moving the choice of warden from the mayors to the population at large, those who favour this change have several positives: first, it adds an election, which strengthens democracy. More choices made by the people, means more political freedom. 
Second, they believe an elected office will attract better or more qualified candidates for warden. Presumably, the office would be open to anyone, and not limited to the sitting mayors of member municipalities.
Third, they argue that an open election will remove any possibility
of, or appearance of, collusion or corruption (given the Charbonneau Commission’s uncovering of corruption in some municipalities – none of them in the Pontiac or des Collines.)
In looking at these pro arguments, shouldn’t we consider the following retorts: first, that merely having more elections does not make for a stronger democracy. More choices of toothpaste do not give us a wider freedom of choice (since the choices are all much the same).
Likewise, an elected office might attract more applicants, but why might they be better qualified? Couldn’t they be worse, and still be popular – as in the case of Trump in the USA. And where would “more qualified” candidates be attracted from – and would that mean we might end up with a warden who lives in Aylmer and drives here each day (as do so many of our professionals)? How would that be an improvement? 
And wouldn’t we have to raise the warden’s salary to attract these higher qualified characters? Could we end up with the foolishness of Pontiac paying Montreal-style wages so every MRC is “equal”? Quebec may legislate equal salaries. Isn’t the MRC expensive enough already?
As for keeping the existing method, wouldn’t it be better to have the mayors elect the person they can work with rather than have a stranger from outside who may know little of the Pontiac? The warden’s is a consensus position; he or she must know the mayors, the region’s problems and its histories – experience a stranger might not have.
Wouldn’t it be easier to pick a qualified candidate from mayors who have already proven their abilities in their own municipality for everyone to see? As for corruption, isn’t our legal system up for the job?
How else could electors estimate the candidates’ professionalism, far-sightedness, cooperativeness, honesty, and commitment to action than by picking the warden from a pool of mayors who have demonstrated their strength and weaknesses in real time? We wouldn’t be relying merely on promises!
And wouldn’t a warden picked from among existing mayors be more likely to be committed to our localities – and not to the desires of Quebec City and the Municipal Affairs bureaucrats? Pontiac is a unique region – historically, linguistically, and so on – don’t we want a warden who knows our uniquenesses and defends them?