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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Time to Make Your Mark

It only happens every 4 years, and last time around there wasn't much interest in the municipal elections around Newfoundland and Labrador. What about this time?

The usual trend in municipal elections for NL is to see more interest in the larger towns and cities but less interest in the smaller communities, unless there's a major issue dividing the town. This certainly isn't always the case as some smaller communities have very healthy elections and voter turnout. But the general trend is to have more councils acclaimed in smaller towns, and in many cases there are often not even enough people nominated to fill the available seats. In fact in the MNL Municipal Census  it was almost a 50/50 split between those that had contested elections and those that did not. So at least 110 municipalities did not have a contested election in 2009.

When I worked with MNL and with Municipal Affairs, councillors and mayors would often comment that they were perfectly happy being acclaimed. They would tell me how it was a sign that their residents were content and didn't feel they needed change. The unfortunate truth is that uncontested elections are not generally a good thing. While it can be a sign of contentment it can also be a sign of apathy and frustration with a system people don't understand.

Healthy elections are important for healthy communities. Its a part of democracy to have choice, no choice means no democracy. It also is an amazing way for residents to get to understand the system of municipal government. Speaking with councillors from around NL a common theme that arises is how they had no idea what was involved until they became a member of their council. The average person doesn't know, or often care to know how the municipal system works in NL. What better way to get to know then by getting involved and sitting on a council.

The current Make Your Mark campaign as pushed by the Department of Municipal Affairs and Municipalities NL is attempting to reach out and encourage people to run for council. It does appear to be having some success as some municipalities seem to have more names coming forward then for the last election. The closest example for me is my home community of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove. While Mayor John Kennedy has been acclaimed there is a great deal of interest in the other council seats.  There was a fully acclaimed council last time around, but this time for the 6 council positions there are 11 names to choose from, including mine.

And don't forget that even if you don't want to run for your council you still have the a very important role to play in choosing your council. So on September 24th get out there and Make Your Mark!

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