Next Monday is voting day, one that offers the opportunity of changing what has been described as the “negative in the community that has lasted the last 20 years” by the outgoing Mayor Larry Henkelman.
I am referring to the interview the mayor gave to Ponoka News, which you can read on page 8 of this week’s issue.
I believe there is a very strong message in those words, maybe an appeal for a radical change of direction in managing the affairs of the community.
Before my arrival, having known Ponoka for several years, not least because of the Stampede, I conducted a quick research on the web to look at a bit of the history of the town.
The more interesting aspects of the outcome of the research were in relation to the recent past of the town.
It was, for example, surprising to see that the population of Ponoka had grown by only about 3.5 per cent between 2001 and 2006 and by 3 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Then I compared those figures with the population growth in neighbouring communities: Sylvan Lake grew by 20 per cent only between 2006 and 2011 censuses and Blackfalds by about 35. And Lacombe, which is located on Highway 2, just like Ponoka, was incorporated as a city three years ago.
One cannot help asking: What do those communities have that Ponoka doesn’t? Could it be the “positive” that Mayor Henkelman says has been missing for the last 20 years?
Given the reality of urban life, it is only natural that there will be various positions, based on differences of opinion, contradicting commercial/financial/business interests and/or divergent visions for the future in any community.
The function of the elections is to identify which way the majority wants to go, allowing the proponents of one or the other party to implement their strategies as they lay out to the community.
In that context, municipal elections have a particularly strong role in determining not only the way to go, but also how to proceed on the path chosen.
In a provincial or federal election, a voter may never have the chance to meet the MLA or the MP s/he has cast the ballot for; but when you vote for a councillor or mayor in municipal election, you have the right and the opportunity to call your local politician to account at a town hall gathering or a council meeting.
Monday’s voting, therefore, is the excellent opportunity to claim the right to call the local politicians to account over the four years that they will be in their seats if they are elected.
But in order to be able to call them to account, the electorate will have to go to the ballot box to select which politician they find worthy of the responsibility to administer the community’s affairs.
Having been acclaimed twice and therefore not having had to face the electorate for almost 9 years, Larry Henkelman’s observation that the community is becoming more demanding in terms transparency looks like a very good sign that “positive” is on its way to replace the “negative” gradually.