Friday, February 4, 2011

The future? What about it?

Immediately following the municipal elections in 2008 I received a message from a friend congratulating me on being elected onto New Maryland Council.

In it, she said something which I had not thought about until then.

"Congratulations on becoming one of the very few members of society chosen to lead it".

Lead it? Wow. I guess so.

She was right with some of what she said but maybe not all.

The population of the Village of New Maryland is roughly 4500 people.
Village Council consists of 5 Councillors and 1 mayor. That equates to about 900 residents for each Councillor. However, our Council is at large so 5 Councillors for 4500 residents is a more fitting way of looking at it.

The province of New Brunswick has a population of approximately 750,000. The Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick is made up of 55 elected MLAs of which the Premier is included as he has his own riding.
That's 55 people to govern roughly 750,000.

The Federal Parliament consists of 308 Members of Parliament each representing their own electoral districts across the country. The Prime Minister of Canada also has a riding of his own.
Each of the federal ridings vary in size but generally there are 308 individuals elected to serve an estimated 34,000,000 people, give or take a few hundred thousand.

In summary, there are 5 of us for 4500 people in New Maryland, 55 MLAs for about 750,000 people in New Brunswick and 308 MPs for roughly 34,000,000 people in Canada.

Looking at it, it's true that there really are only a few people that are elected to govern the entire population, isn't it?
I realize that the Minicipal level isn't the same as the Federal one but we are all paid to serve those that have elected us.

This is why I agree with the part of the statement "few members of society chosen".

What I have some question with is the "to lead it" part.
Are we really the leaders?
Do the voters look at the candidates and think "I want that person to lead us" or do they say "I want that person to represent my interests" and think that they can do it better than the other candidates who are not elected?

My thinking is that I am not someone standing in front of a group heading in a direction with the Village citizens behind me. I agree that is a component of much of what we do as a Council.

I think a better way of seeing our position is of standing in the middle of a large circle with comments, instructions and wishes coming into the center from all points of the circle.
Then we are to take what we have gathered and go to a smaller circle (in my case 5 and 1 mayor) and ensure that what we have heard is relayed to the others and reasonably acted upon.

The word "reasonable" plays a very large role here. There have been several occasions where I may not have agreed with something that has been brought to Council but have seen that it is reasonable.
In other cases there have been things so bizarre that have come up which have left me shaking my head.
I'm not going to tell you any details of what things I have placed into what category so don't even bother asking.

But it is surprising at the frequency of which the bizarre things do come up.
Sometimes I have felt irritation that an item that I have felt is just stupid has been discussed.
Regular Council meetings are once a month for a few hours and the "Council-in-Committee" meetings are also once a month.
If we have to spend meeting time talking about frivilous items then time is taken away from other topics right? Perhaps.
But you know what? That item has as much right to be considered as any other even if only one solitary person wants it to be.

I said it a long time ago in this blog but no matter how strange something may seem to the rest of us the fact is that one person's reality is just as important and real to them as ours is to us.
That person is a person and has a vote and a voice like the rest of us.

I can say without a doubt that becoming a Councillor has given me far more education than I could have imagined.

Sometimes we have dealt with things that are so time-consuming and involved that my head hurt.
On occasion Council has made a decision that I felt so good about and strongly for that I could never imagine that anyone could take issue with it. Then the matter has gone south leaving me bewildered that it wasn't loved by all.

I am fortunate that my engineering background helps give me a basic understanding of how a water system operates or how a paving operation works. On our committees we go into great detail with these topics and others on a regular basis.
Imagine how a Councillor feels when they have to learn about this stuff from the start in order to keep up!

This is far more education than most schools can offer us.

I've told my MLA friends how jealous I am that they are able to do what they do on a full time basis while we Councillors have to hold day jobs to survive.
I say this jokingly but do think that the whole political thing would be a wee bit more enjoyable if I could focus on it entirely.

The downside of the MLA or MP position is that they have to devote all of their time and resources seeking the nomination of the party in a riding THEN have to do more to get elected by the people.

If they are not successful they have to find another job. Also, even if they are elected there is always a possibility that the next election will see them beaten and unemployed.

For me campaigning is a matter of knocking on doors and talking to all of the residents, getting several campaign signs up and a flyer in every mail box.
Then hope that the people like me enough to choose me.

In 2004 I ran for a position on Council and didn't succeed.
It was upsetting but not the end of the world. I still had a regular job.

The reason for this post is that the next municipal election is just over a year away. I have been on Council almost 3 years now.
That year is going to fly by just as the last 3 have so I had better make sure that things are in order and my next campaign is ready when the time comes.

Anything can happen in the next year but I'm quite certain that I will be running again.

Admittedly, being a Councillor has its trying times but I truly feel that I am doing what I can to make a piece of the world the best it can be for the residents, our kids, myself and the future.

That makes it all worthwhile.

Stay well,

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