It’s a BC tradition every three years when the leaves fall from the trees, they are rapidly replaced with a forest of municipal election signs. This fall in Squamish is no exception, and currently you can’t move very far in any direction without bumping into colourful banners touting the merits of our mayoral and council candidates.
No one is out there saying “I’m an average person who will try hard and make some mistakes.
If we are to believe the brief statements on their election signs, we are on the cusp of having the most dedicated, honest, forward thinking, decisive and visionary group of people ever assembled. Squamish is not alone in this regard, of course. All communities in BC will soon have the luxury and privilege of electing such inspiring leaders. We are evidently in great hands no matter who we elect, as I can’t find a single candidate that promises any other than greatness.
No one is out there saying “I’m an average person who will try hard, make some mistakes, cast a vote on things I know very little about but keep working diligently and do my best”. Maybe that would cost too much to print on a roadside banner or, more likely, no one believes they’ll ever get elected unless they pronounce themselves to be a superhero.
I must admit I’d make a terrible politician. The pay is lousy, the hours in committee and council meetings are long and it’s often a thankless job, especially when you’re surrounded by people like me who are more than willing to take shots about the latest municipal fiasco or failed plan. This is exactly you will never see me planting plastic billboards around town bellowing “pick me, pick me!” to every potential voter.
I do firmly believe, however, that when someone does make the decision to put themselves up for election they must do it with their eyes wide open, being absolutely be honest and transparent from the day they sign the nomination papers to their last day in the public chair. In a past life I worked for a public agency, and from day one on the job I told my staff that they should be proud to see every detail of everything they do on the front page of any national newspaper. The logic is simple – you are getting paid by the public and you are obliged to tell them what you are doing with their money.
I also believe that facts speak far louder than promises. In the past several years we have had similar slates of candidates (several of whom are our current mayor and councillors) promise many things that didn’t happen. Fiscal responsibility is a favorite tag line, yet in the past three years the District has burned through money in ways that you or I would never condone. Less bureaucracy is another slogan that every would-be mayor bellows from the stump, then once in power proceeds to merrily empower the bureaucrats to increase taxes, hamper development and allow major cost overruns on most municipal projects. Then there’s my all-time favorite – openness and transparency.
Every person with their name on the ballot will tell us that they are more transparent than a new windshield, but when it comes to providing facts about things the District has actually done on their watch, that windshield suddenly looks more like a brick wall. Even though the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act directs public agencies to provide information, with very limited exceptions, to anyone who asks, the normal response from the District is typically late, incomplete, heavily redacted or just outright denied. Whenever someone in the District is shy about providing information, I get really curious about why.
I would encourage everyone to vote and it’s none of my business which names you pick. However, I will suggest you don’t do it blindly. Take a hard look at the actual track records of people before you mark an ”x” beside their name. Whoever wins will be spending your money for the next three years, and we all need to ask ourselves why promises routinely get broken, why so many people are signing up for a job that pays less than minimum wage and what credentials they really have to run our town.