Here we are, our Mayor and Council have been acclaimed, and we await the direct appointment of two more councillors. Municipal government by acclamation is not a new thing, but this lack of candidates certainly is. I warned our MLA this would happen years ago. In theory, four-year terms made sense… to some. Elections are expensive, sometimes divisive, and most other levels of government have four-year terms. The cities wanted four-year terms. After all, running a city is very complex, and new municipal politicians have a lot to learn on the job. Also, city elections are very expensive. But by caving to the demands of our cities, our Provincial Government has created a horrible reality. Simply put, in small towns where elected positions are almost volunteerism, the potential pool of candidates is too thin. In our case, only two people running for councillor, and a voter’s list of only about 1000 people.
Think about it. Even councillors in PG and Kamloops make $20-30,000 a year. The Mayor makes almost six figures, with a lot of free meals. In other words, in cities running for office is applying for a real job. A job that builds your resume and pays a professional amount. In Valemount, our Councillors get what amounts to a stipend, and our Mayor makes about the same as if they were on social assistance. Nobody in their reasonable mind would propose pay raises of the magnitude that would attract more consideration for the job, so what should we do?
If you are a retiree worried about the future of your town, would you sign up for two years? If you are a young person wanting a say in what the town will look like 10 or 20 years from now, how about two years? No young person can commit to four years these days, most young people do not even know if they will still have the same job a year from now. And very few retirees are going to sacrifice four full years of online beratement without a meaningful break.
Democracy is about so much more than continuity and learning how to “behave” correctly according to some consultant hired by the Province to “train” all of the small town Voices of the People. Turnover is good! Do you know what also is bad about four year terms? There is no relief valve. Inevitably there is an issue that makes a certain number of village people animated. In a functional democracy, this new special interest group, who is convinced that they alone know what is best for all, would have a shot at getting their guy in within a reasonable time frame. But four years? Well online they go. And it festers and destroys community is that passive-aggressive form of toxic.
Democracy works not because it always picks the best people to lead, but because it is the only system where occasionally idiots are given the ropes with which to hang themselves. There is nothing that throws cold water onto political extremism like being given the reigns of power and then seeing for yourself how delusional you were. It is called Cognitive Distortion, where you assume more people agree with you than really do. Democracy is supposed to give people the chance to have their say within a reasonable amount of time. Four years is not reasonable at the municipal level for small towns. So I propose this… how about we split the difference? Two Councillors run for four-year terms, and two run for two-year terms. That way there is always a balance of power between the long haul and experienced, and the fresh and unjaded. Maybe with a two-year option, we will increase our local candidate pool from two to 20.