Municipal governments, and those who serve within those governments, have often been considered as the junior members of the governing club.
Naturally, many feel that the federal government has the greatest impact on the world stage. Their policies have significant consequences and, as the richest and most senior level of government, they command the most attention.
The provincial governments also manage to command respect, although their inter-mural bickering can often cast their federal counterparts into the role of a patient parents, trying to sort out a squabbling brood over which they ultimately preside.
Then there are municipal governments, the Charlie Browns of the governmental triad.
Municipal governments are often ignored, or considered to be barely relevant. The issues they address tend to be highly parochial and on those occasions when they try to address more sweeping issues like climate change, they invariable find themselves the targets of condescending snark.
Civic elections unfailingly attract lower turnouts than their national and provincial counterparts.
But local governments do matter. The policies they enact can have an immediate impact on our communities, shaping the local economies and impacting the quality of life in the place we live, work, and play.
That’s why it was refreshing that Vancouver Island elected so many new councillors in last fall’s elections and why it easy to feel good to hear how some are already carving out their personal roles on district council.
A good council — like a good community — needs a mix of personalities, skill sets and mindsets. We want a degree of experience and common sense at the table. We want thorough fact checkers and researchers who do extra credit homework and understand the issues by the time a meeting is held.
We want professional insight into the role of and challenges faced by staff. We want energy and drive to get things done. And we want outlooks that encompass yet see beyond things like age, gender and social status.
A hopeful indicator is that few of the votes taken by a council on real issues are unanimous, yet they never fall into the pattern of block voting along repeated, predictable lines.
Issues and solutions matter far more than old-school back-scratching and vote trading.