Now is your chance to make a difference

They’ve got your interest — now what are you going to do?

Candidates for town and county councils are in the home stretch. Advance polls are coming up and the election is Oct. 18.

It remains to be seen whether this campaign will attract voters to cast a ballot or put them to sleep for another three years.

The danger now of course is that this campaign has bored the majority of sensible voters, leaving the decision of who will represent all residents in the hands of the minority.

It’s not like the editor of your community newspaper is a kingmaker, giving his royal blessing to candidates who drop by to introduce themselves; nor is he an emperor whose thumb controls the fates of candidates.

But I am getting lonely, sitting back in my little corner office. As the campaign heads into its final 10 days, I’ve crossed paths with four town council candidates who wanted to meet the editor of the newspaper, the one guy in town outside of incumbent councillors who has attended nearly all council meetings in the last 17 months. Odd too that all of the challengers passed on attending the Sept. 28 council meeting. I guess they don’t want their campaign compromised by actually seeing politicians in action. Or they don’t know where the council chamber is.

It’s not always heady stuff but local government matters most in our daily lives. Town council’s decisions affect your taxes, water and sewer charges, how often your garbage is collected and what the ice rental rate will be at the arena.

Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins doesn’t care whether your residential street will be plowed this winter. Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ray Prins doesn’t care whether you have curbside recycling.

It’s not enough to bone up on the issues in your community once every three years and trudge to the polls. Our politicians, and we in the media, need to keep the spotlight on democracy every week. Voting is the culmination of your understanding of — and involvement in — civic politics. But it is equally important — and essential if the community is to grow — that we not limit our participation to voting once every three years.

Thankfully, Ponoka residents have female candidates to consider when they go to mark their X. Having women on the ballot however, no more guarantees women will come out to vote than it does that the female candidates will garner the support of female voters. Women are chronically under-represented on council in most communities. They typically make up the slight majority in community demographics but if lucky they will find one seat around the council table. Congratulations to the ladies for stepping up to the plate.

Oct. 18 is your best chance to influence who will make up the council that will collect and spend your taxes, enforce local bylaws, determine land uses and carve in stone the plans that will be the community’s priorities for government in the years ahead. There is less than two weeks remaining for you to challenge the candidates when they come to your door or ask a question at the Oct. 7 forum. Do you and the candidates agree on what the town’s priorities should be over the next three years?

Does council do enough to engage you in their debate on the issues important to you and your neighbours?

This new council in Ponoka has the opportunity to set the agenda and the tone for a new round of civil and inclusive governance of its citizens.

We’ll soon see if the leadership elected is up to the challenge.

Decide for yourself which candidates for town council or county council meet your criteria for integrity, vision and suitability for office.

Politics is too important to your community to leave in the hands of politicians.