Forums provide rare opportunity for voters

Local voters in Fruitvale and Montrose have had their opportunity to quiz prospective representatives

With two of the four all-candidates meetings in the books, local voters in Fruitvale and Montrose have had their opportunity to quiz prospective representatives on issues of concern to their community.

And with forums still to come in Trail and Rossland, the hope here is citizens will seize the moment to inform themselves on the right people to lead their respective communities.

Therein lies the great thing about municipal elections.

Of all the calls to the ballot box perhaps this is the one we have the most impact, most personal connection and most duty to take part in.

As much as we live in a democracy the reality of the federal election is that it is often pre-determined before votes are even counted in B.C. And if our riding doesn’t elect a member of the ruling party, more often than not we’re left on the sideline when it comes to generosity of the powers that be in Ottawa.

Add to that the fact that the closest contact we have with our Prime Minister is when his jet flies thousands of feet overhead on the way back to 24 Sussex Drive and there is no doubt a disconnect with our federal leader.

At the provincial level, again the rural part of the province is often relegated to an after-thought when it comes to decisions in Victoria.

We might get a glimpse of the party leaders when they’re in campaign mode and all the hand-shaking and stump speeches stop locally but once the votes have been counted, the visits are few and far between.

And like the federal election, if we’re not part of the ruling party then we can only sit and watch when decisions like the Olympics, and the infrastructure that went with it, are stamped and approved.

Which bring us back to the municipal election.

It’s a rare opportunity to ask candidates questions that pertain to our day-to-day lives and expect an answer from the people who will ultimately make the final decisions.

If your backyard floods every spring then you have the opportunity to get their perspective on a possible solution.

If you think the community needs another bridge, then here’s your chance to find out who agrees and who disagrees.

If the water, local schools, garbage or taxes are cause for concern for you, here’s the time to speak up and learn the candidates’ opinions on those issues.

It’s a common human trait to simply moan and complain about things. More often than not perhaps they really are out of our control – like the Olympics or the  economy.

But when it comes to municipal issues, we do have some control.

The mayors, councillors, school trustees and area directors are our neighbours, friends, co-workers and community members.

They have the same stake in the decisions as we do.

And they have made the ultimate commitment of giving up their time to help improve and maintain the community in which we live.

It’s a big task, even for the smallest community, and so the responsibility lies with the voters as much as the candidates to make the informed decision.

That’s why the forums are an integral part of the process. It’s a chance to hear first hand what the representatives have to say.

You may not want to step up to the microphone and ask a question but more often than not, someone else in the crowd is prepared to ask the same question you were contemplating.

So while we expect our mayors, councillors and trustees to do the right thing, we should also expect the citizens to inform themselves as much as possible about the people on the ballot.

The forum provides that chance, whether citizens take advantage of that can prove as crucial as the check mark they place on the ballot come election day.