Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Value of Democracy is in Getting Involved

Yesterday evening my wife and I went to the municipal all-candidates meeting at Chances. I've been living in Prince Rupert for almost sixteen years and each time that there is a municipal election seems more important and more interesting then the last. It's only in the last two years that I've actually attended any city council meetings and I've been pleasantly surprised to see democracy in action in every one of them.

I've lived in Vancouver and Montreal – two big cities where you could never get the access to city council that you can here. There is something to be said for a place the size of Prince Rupert. It's possible to get acquainted with the mayor and city council members. There isn't a huge distance between them and the public the way there is in the big city.

Sunday's all-candidates meeting was fun. I've been so wired to the U.S. Presidential election and the Canadian Federal election that I'd lost touch with what it feels like to be undecided. Not anymore. There are two mayoralty candidates, both former one term mayors of Prince Rupert. Judging from their words, either one would make a good mayor.

There were the five incumbent city councillors and ten wannabees. They all got to have their say and I thought it gave a pretty good sense of where each of them stood on the issues. If you didn't get a chance to go to either of the two all-candidates meetings you can still listen to this last one on Channel 10, at 5 PM and 8Pm as I recall. Or visit princerupert.ca and check out who is running for what. Then google the candidates to look at their web pages.

Unlike our federal and provincial and the U.S. Presidential elections ideology and negative campaigning don't really come into the picture. All the candidates came across as practical and pragmatic and that's a relief. Most seemed aware of the financial and employment problems that we face here, most had good ideas for solutions and most saw the importance of having a well-thought-out vision for the future of our town.

Of all the new faces I was most impressed by the bus driver. Now there's a great occupation to have as a city councillor. He's bound to get an earful from a good cross-section of citizens every day. I liked the way that he suggested, more than once, that more people should take the bus. He's right and everybody knows it. You can save money and make this a greener city by taking the bus. He's got my vote.

I hope the turnout is good. The turnout for the recent Canadian election was terrible. On the other hand, the turnout for the American election was the best it's been since the 1960's. That's because Americans are so motivated to avoid a repeat of the last eight years and so inspired by the promise of Barak Obama.

Democracy is a treasure that we've built up over the years. In my opinion a treasure is only valuable when it gets shared. If you horde it it becomes meaningless, it loses its value. When we vote, when we attend city council meetings, when we petition city council, when we run for council, and when we write letters to the editor we are making democracy more valuable. The more people get involved the richer we all are. So get out and vote this Saturday and make a difference to the future of this fair city.

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