Embrace electoral opportunities for change

“And the times, they are a-changin’”

“And the times, they are a-changin’”

— Bob Dylan

… and it seems that 2011 may be a year of change, or at least potential change for all of us; from the community level, regional, provincial, national, right through to international.

Although many Fruitvale council plans and initiatives have been completed in this term already, we are still addressing the most pressing issues facing all communities today: sustainable development, infrastructure renewal, transportation, accessibility concerns, social and housing affordability and the sustaining of our local economy.

With all the challenges to be faced in the near future, on all levels, from the local level up to the international level, it is a time for strong leadership and strong decisions.

Being part of a strong and cohesive council has been a great experience and a chance to connect with residents. Our Fruitvale official community plan is under revision and we will have more opportunity this year to open the lines of communication with residents to discuss change and sustainability.

It seems the last 2 1/2 years have sped by; 2011 is an election year for both municipal and regional politicians. Provincially, both political parties are in leadership turnover. Not only that, but a referendum on the HST is slated for September. There will be much dialogue, debate and potential change in our province.

Across Canada, Alberta’s premier stepped down last month. A leadership contest is now underway in the Alberta Conservative party. Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier retired in November. Ontario will have a scheduled election this autumn. Federally, the political pundits are speculating madly about a spring election call.

We are fortunate in Canada that we can be confident in the validity of our democratic election process. As may be seen by recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, internationally, many do not have the benefit of fair representation which we take for granted.

Change is normal. Change is inevitable. Change is the new reality. Change can also be frightening for many people. The ability to receive immediate information via technology ensures that we are aware of constant change on many levels. We all expect change; more information and change than any previous population.

Fear of change is common; not all change is good, or bad or radical. Sometimes it is done in small steps, barely noticeable, but when the steps are added up, the transformation may be dramatic. A small step, like a pebble thrown into a pond, may have a ripple effect and spread to other areas and communities.

Just think of the effect of volunteer community beautification activities – this has spread throughout our region and now we are all proud of our blooms, and also have greater pride in our neighbourhoods and towns.

Rather than fearing change or rejecting it outright, perhaps we should spend some time evaluating what the change is, why it is occurring, what effects it may have.

Change can be used as an outstanding opportunity to gain an understanding of what we can do socially, culturally, economically and environmentally to sustain and grow. Mankind has always come up with creative solutions in reaction to unforeseen circumstances.

Democratic change is generally defined as “for the greater good.” It may not appear to be beneficial to some, but will be beneficial for the majority of the citizens affected in the long-term. Although we generally make decisions for the greater good, sometimes it is our responsibility to make decisions to protect the rights of individuals and minorities.

I have been fortunate to experience how my council “team” approaches decisions involving change and both the individual and the broader community are considered carefully in all decisions.

In a small town, even very small changes are noticeable. Improving a park, creating a new or better social gathering, encouraging inter-generational contact – all of these things may be small on the grand world stage.

However, these small changes are what make our daily lives more satisfying, keep us positive in outlook and create a “sense of place” and community.

I believe we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth with an enviable lifestyle and must actively work to protect and sustain its beauty, vibrancy and diversity.

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Patricia Cecchini is a Fruitvale councillor. A politician from Rossland is on the Community Comment slate for next week.