On Saturday, Nov.15, 2014, eligible voters throughout the Kootenay-Boundary region will go to the polls to cast their votes for positions on village, town and city councils, school boards and regional district boards. It's a ritual that has been performed every three years for many years, but this time the term of office is four years. No matter where you live in the region, choosing people for positions on governing bodies can be a challenging and often highly frustrating exercise for voters.
How does one choose the best people to serve them from among both well-known and virtually unknown candidates? Is it best to pick a candidate who is running on her record or a fresh face that makes interesting promises. Gathering information about the decision-making capabilities of candidates can be difficult. An election is not a popularity contest and those who are selected to govern on behalf of everyone should be chosen wisely.During the next few months the names of candidates will become known. Some have already declared their intentions and voters can now begin looking at them with a critical eye.
Will they serve the municipal, the school district, or the regional district well in a decision-making role? What is their stance on issues like taxation and budgeting? Will they be open and transparent? Are they well informed about the critical issues in their respective jurisdictions? Above all will they keep in touch with their constituents, i.e., be open and transparent?
Municipalities, regional districts and school districts are operated on behalf of all taxpayers by their respective staffs that receive their guidance from elected officials. Ensuring that those employees have the best possible guidance is the responsibility of the voters. New candidates will offer their names for a variety of reasons and determining how each of them might behave in a decision-making capacity is in the realm of pure speculation. A vote for any candidate—neophyte or experienced—should be an informed one but even after reading published platforms and statements in the media, and attending all-candidates' meetings, useful information is often scarce. Consequently it is wise to be wary.
Be wary of promises that you know can't be kept. They are made to win votes and once elected, a candidate must work with several others in a decision-making capacity.
Be wary of a candidate who talks about sustainable growth and development. Growth is not sustainable. Be wary of a candidate who claims to want to reduce taxes without providing considerable detail on the services that would be cut to accomplish a significant reduction.
Be wary of a candidate who claims to be a "team player." Effective councils or boards are generally not ever of one mind and they make better decisions if they consider a diversity of views.
Be wary of a candidate who has a plan to create a vibrant community during their term of office. Elected officials can do no more than pass bylaws and allocate funds in support of projects.
Be wary of a candidate who talks about the potential of the area but does not provide details.
Be wary of a candidate who is not familiar with the Municipal Act, the Community Charter and existing bylaws. The message to all voters is a clear one.
• Become as well informed as possible about candidates who have the attributes to do their jobs well on behalf of all residents in the city or the region during the next four years.
• Vote for the people who provide you with some assurances that they can make wise decisions.
• Treat this election as much more than a crapshoot. Remember that the people chosen will hold office until November 2018. Choosing an effective governing body is a challenge and so it should be.