Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan
Your safety belts fastened? We have an election coming – in October, four quick months away. Growing parts of the world don’t have elections, or they’re for show. And we did hear plenty about Ontario’s vote in early June, but you’d never know we’ll be picking a new government, soon, in our own province. Is the Pontiac going to wait until the last half-hour, metaphorically, to consider what changes we might want from our next government? The one time we really have our politicians’ ears, we’re silent?
Once they’re in, we’re out, in terms of influence.
What issues are close to our hearts – to your heart, dear reader? What needs improving here in our region? Health care? Inter-provincial economics? What needs just focus and attention (education, mental health?), what needs more assertiveness from our leaders (Chalk River’s radioactive dump?) and what else needs more funding (or less)? An MRC pool? New arena complex in Shawville? And with Government itself under scrutiny, do we need down-sizing or more public services? More contracting-out or less?
Kiss much of this goodbye for the next four years if we don’t speak up now. If we leave the landscape empty, it will surely be filled by those listing road repairs and annual operational grants as “major achievements”.
One Pontiac mayor, Jim Gibson of Rapides-des-Joachims, wants municipal political reform moved to the front burner. Québec’s association of municipalities wants changes, mostly funding to match downloaded responsibilities – and slowing the centralization of management.
Mayor Gibson sees the need for structural reform after so many years of status quo; raising the qualifications bar to improve municipal governance for one. He’d like a mandatory course on municipal government for anyone to be eligible to run for local office. Misconceptions about local powers and old histories can lead to big waste. Betterprepared candidates across the board mean better councils, says the mayor.
Considering Québec’s anti-corruption investigations of the last decade, Gibson wants reform of public office and criminal records, since municipal councillors deal with significant budgets and contracts. Should a criminal record affect a person’s qualification for office? Should it limit their handling of our tax dollars and higher-government funding?
This would include the Ministry of Municipal Affairs given the authority to remove councillors, under specific conditions – rather than forcing the matter into the courts, for years. Too much government authority? Not enough? What about efficiency?
Gibson agrees that candidates for mayor should have past council experience. Too limiting?Or does this cut the learning curve and reduce mistakes? Good government depends on more than good intentions from our representatives, doesn’t it? Put that into the Code?
Shouldn’t all ballots have a “none of the above” choice? And acclaimed seats! A sign of public contentedness – or a message of alienation from our whole democratic process?
Let’s see some genuine research on the extent and causes of political disengagement. Are voters so content with their lives and incomes that elections are irrelevant?
Or is this discouragement justified, after so many years of empty promises and posturing?
With a million questions, why is Pontiac so silent?
What will we allow social media revolution to become? Communications are within the provincial domain. And will we look at any social-media meddling in our own elections? That is claimed for Ontario’s vote, manipulation from south of the border. Are we alert to this?
Shouldn’t local resources (forestry) be the domain of local economies? Are school boards functioning as they should, and, if so, why are so many of our kids under-
educated? Should the SAQ be privatized? What about cannabis sales? So many questions, issues!
As for actual candidates, the election period is not yet open, but individuals can make public announcements – the Pontiac Green Party just named it’s candidate for 2019. Let’s hear from individuals interested in the issues and the campaign, now, rather than having everything crammed into the campaign period itself.
Once the campaign period is upon us, we’re in the sights of the manipulators and we’ll be struggling against the flood of clichés from the parties, interest groups, and their PR firms.