So you want to run for municipal council !
Successful candidates must realize being elected only means a majority of people taking the time to attend a voting place put them in office. A winning candidate often, if not usually, garners below the 50% plus one that an election win should signify. For that reason sometime up to 60% or 70% of the people in the municipality a candidate is trying to represent did not vote for any winning candidate. That large majority of people an elected person represents still wants elected council members to deal with their issues and concerns. That might not be the issues you or the administration feels are important. However it does mean it is up to you to explore everyone’s issues to be certain the role you volunteered to assume as a representative is fulfilled. It is neither legal nor ethical for an elected representative to fail to represent any member of the electorate because of an indication the person requesting answers was not a supporter. Citizens must accept that a winning candidate is their representative. Conversely elected representatives must accept that even those that might have expressed opposition to his or her election must be served. Saying if you are not satisfied vote differently in the next election is not an answer when such a large percentage of people do not take the time to register an official vote. Elections only happen every four years and situations can change drastically in the interim meaning council members must go with the flow of change.
The need for people to fight for council information through access to information laws because some group or individual disagrees with a council action, or for that matter any direction of appointed or a hired municipal employees, reflects a terrible weakness. Forcing citizens seeking council information to use municipal access to information laws reflects badly on both the level of competence of elected councillors and the caliber of management administrators. Elected officials are not there to please the administration if disputes arise. Administration and other employees are hired to serve the public under the direction of council. The administration not council are responsible for employee work ethic and direction. Council on the other hand is responsible for making certain administration is serving every aspect of the needs and desires of the electorate. Above all councillors are expected to keep promises made during election campaigns that often led to an election victory.
Council is in affect the board of directors of a multimillion dollar corporation. The citizens of the municipality are the shareholders. Every council decision must be approved by a majority and although maybe challenged cannot be legally changed by any individual councillor, the mayor or reeve. When passed a motion becomes a decision of the whole council not just those that voted in favour. When council passes a motion it is also incumbent on every citizen to accept the verdict. Procedure or legality can and should be questioned if in doubt, but disregarding an approved and voted upon motion of council is not an option. The only way a person that vehemently disagrees with the direction of any council must be to stand for election in an effort to affect change.
With the 2013 municipal elections just months away people considering becoming candidates and those preparing to seek reelection should seriously think about the reason they are running. Is it anger at what the present council is planning, usually without having full knowledge of all the circumstances around some of the decisions that might seem wrong? Is it the extra money that successful candidates will realize? Is it because municipal employees appear to be slacking off or doing work that could be done better if they were working somewhere else? Is it because the staff seems to be in control of council? If the reason is any of these or a myriad of similar reasons then the prospective candidate should decide not to stand for election or reelection.
Any person considering a council run must be prepared to study the municipal act and all its ramifications, seek advice on what to expect from past council members that have the experience, and/or attend one of the seminars in many cities organized to teach people what it will be like to become and what is expected from council members. Added to those reasons if the person is ready to learn, endure criticism, often unjustly, and sacrifice a great deal of family time and hours with a spouse, then by all means consider becoming a candidate. But remember the really good candidates will have an agenda of items that he or she will try to accomplish and use those items as a platform in all advertising and public meetings so the electorate whether someone that actually votes or one that simply follows council is prepared to be a supporter. Becoming a councillor is a job that tends to make a person more professional adding to their effectiveness as a person and should not be attempted by someone just because they want to be a councillor for any selfish or monetary reason.