The older I get, the less I like party politics, and this provincial election campaign has reminded me how thankful I am that we've had the sense in this province to keep party politics out of our municipal elections.
When I was much younger I was an enthusiastic party politics guy. Over the years I have carried a membership card for two different political parties at different times of my political growth, and I worked on many federal and provincial election campaigns for three different parties (in the early '90s I worked on a provincial campaign for a Progressive Conservative candidate, believe it or not, but only because he was a good guy and the candidate 'my party' was running was horrid).
As the years have marched on we seem to have experienced a shift in party politics. Campaign events and debates feel more like pro wrestling matches; respect has left the building, and truth and transparency aren't far behind. Often, long-standing party ideology seems to be tossed out the window in favour of convenience in order to capture a few extra votes, and everyone is so dug into their party position that meeting your opponent part way has become a sin in the world of party politics. The establishment rules the roost in the party politics game, leaving anyone with an ounce of critical thinking ability left on the sidelines – no individual thought allowed here.
Thankfully this provincial election campaign is now over and we just have the aftermath to contend with. The municipal election campaign should ramp up in the weeks to come, and there won't be an obnoxious party leader or a flawed party platform anywhere to be found.
I'm sometimes amazed that we have made it this far without succumbing to the temptation to unleash political parties on municipal election campaigns as is seen south of our border, but I'm glad we as a society have resisted. As my distaste for the party politics scene has grown over the years, I've been more and more thankful that when a council candidate is asking for my vote, they aren't doing so on behalf of a political party.
With political parties set to the side, municipal candidates are free to share their true thoughts and ideas without being bound to a trumped up platform, and they are held to account by the voters as individuals, not based on what their party leader is up to. Debates at the municipal level are often interesting and constructive, and they are far less likely to feature polarizing red herrings and double-speak.
So now that we've endured the craziness of the provincial election campaign, the party faithful can either celebrate victory, or lick their wounds while I look forward to real, grassroots politics during our municipal election campaign. I want to know what candidates have in mind for tackling the infrastructure deficit facing the municipality, I want to know candidates' thoughts on municipal debt, I want to know how a candidate envisions future growth in the community – and I will hear it straight from the candidates, with no party filter, no establishment controls, and after what we have witnessed over the past several weeks, that will be refreshing indeed.
Municipal elections suffer from low turnout just as upper level elections have in recent decades, and that is unfortunate, as municipal issues are the ones that touch our daily lives with the greatest frequency, and often with the greatest impact. If our sewers fail we will feel the pain far sooner than if a pipeline is built. If our bridges crumble, the ability to travel in our municipality would become a much greater problem than if healthcare costs rise by four percent.
So, even if you've become politically exhausted after this provincial election campaign, don't let that dampen your interest in the upcoming municipal election. Seek out the candidates – they are your friends and neighbours, ask them your questions, share your ideas, and then vote on election day – I promise there won't be a party leader or a dreadful party platform anywhere in sight.