Saturday, October 23, 2010

Halmanator For Mayor

In a couple of days, most Ontario communities will be holding municipal elections. Municipal elections are notorious for producing the smallest voter turnouts. This is probably because many deem them to be of lesser importance than federal or provincial elections, since we're not voting for a Prime Minister nor even a Premier. It's just a bunch of city councillors, some school trustees and ... oh yes ... the mayor. Who cares, right?

In many ways, the people who prevail in municipal elections affect our daily lives much more directly than does either the Prime Minister or the provincial Premier, so we really should care. Our property taxes, leaf collection, snow removal, fire and police services and access to community services, not to mention the general quality of life in our home towns, are directly affected by the decisions made by these people. Still, I can't entirely fault those who fail to vote.

Unlike federal or provincial elections, where one votes for a party moreso than for an individual, municipal elections are very much contests between individuals. There are a lot of people running and, although the local newspapers and the internet try to provide coverage, most of us don't know all the candidates or their backgrounds and researching them takes a significant amount of time and energy. Thus, sadly, many either simply don't vote, or those who do simply vote for names that they recognize, which means that the same people keep getting elected over and over again, regardless of their suitability or lack thereof.

It becomes even worse when you live in a town like mine. I have a choice of three people when it comes to choosing our next mayor. One is the current incumbent, with whom I'm not particularly impressed and whom I would love to see replaced.

The second, according to an article in my local paper reviewing the three candidates, is a fifty-eight-year-old "former manager in the manufacturing sector who has worked as a consultant on local political issues and helped with a local business since closing his own home-renovating business more than a decade ago". Okay, so he has some practical business and management experience - that's good - but a spotty success record - not so good. He further promises to "re-evaluate the salaries of city employees when contract negotiations come up". Sounds good at first first blush, except that this could easily mean that he intends to freeze the salaries of city employees, some of whom actually earn their pay, while doing nothing about his own over-inflated salary or those of the city council members. He proposes to find the savings necessary to minimize municipal tax increases by possibly trimming back the number of community centres. That may sound like fiscal responsibility if you happen to agree that the city has too many community centres ... unless, of course, the one that you like to use happens to be one of those that gets shut down. Finally, the news article notes that this particular candidate "has not done much campaigning this election on the advice of his doctor". Great! So, even if I actually like him, he's liable to keel over and die on me within a year of taking office. Next!

The third candidate is a 46-year-old who is "currently on disability and has been receiving assistance through Ontario Works for the past several years" and apparently didn't even own a phone before deciding to run.

"I'm just a regular guy," he is quoted as saying. "Any person in this city could be mayor. I truly believe that and I think our mindset has been befuddled into thinking you have to have certain qualifications. That's not the case. It's all about your heart." Translation: I have no particular qualifications for the job, but please vote for me anyway. This candidate promised to freeze taxes and "only keep a portion of the mayor's annual salary." I guess he figures that even just a percentage of the mayoral salary has got to be an improvement over welfare, which is what "Ontario Works" is.

So I'm left with a choice between an incumbent whom I'd like to vote out, a business manager with a questionable track record who might not be long for this world, and a welfare bum. Given choices like these, it's easy to understand why so many don't see the point of voting. Maybe I should run for mayor next time around!


George said...

You have my vote. ;)

Tubes said...

Very ironic, but candidate number two did keel over and die on election day. See today's paper...