When people gathered at the South Stormont Community Hall earlier this month for an event labelled a candidate workshop, it really was anything but.
In actuality it was a group of people seated in the centre of the room surrounded by and being dictated to by those that have already worked for years on councils and municipal staff. It felt much like a herd of wildebeest being circled by a pack of wolves, almost daring one of the herd to leap forward and break rank. But isn’t that what politics is all about? Standing up, breaking rank and file, pushing forward and leading the pack?
You would be hard pressed to find any citizen within SD&G that doesn’t have a single complaint about their local government. Yet, when it came time for people to show a real vested interest in their communities, few showed up.
Those that did were some of the regular cast of colourful characters that many of us know, but would hardly want handling power tools let alone deciding the future of our communities. There were even some that you were sure would channel their inner Christopher Lambert from the Highlander movies, jump to their feet and declare, “there can be only one!” The turnout and entertainment were equally disappointing.
Local affairs generally lack the sex appeal of federal, or even provincial, politics. However, there is nothing that has greater influence on our immediate lives, and dare I say, of greater importance, than what is decided in our local municipal halls. This is the definition of grassroots stuff and having a seat at the council table goes a long way to addressing the issues that concern you and your neighbours.
Does that road full of potholes irritate you everyday on your morning commute? Run for council. Do the empty storefronts that give tourists little reason to stop bother you? Run for council. Does the destruction of our forest cover, our school systems, the taxes you pay and the changing environmental services concern you? Run for council.
Now I’m hardly naïve enough to think that one person can march into a municipal office, plop themselves into the comfy leather mayor’s chair, issue several decrees and simply fix all the issues. In fact, you should take comfort in knowing that it’s quite the opposite. A position on council requires thoughtfulness, co-operation, decisiveness, awareness, accountability, empathy, optimism and honesty in a group setting.
In recent times, there has been a startling vacuum of leadership from the most important positions in all levels of government. The time has come for us to take responsibility for where we are.
Break rank and file. Be a leader. You won’t be the only one.