If you check the Brandon Votes section of the city’s website this morning, it will tell you there are 57 days left to the municipal election that will determine the composition of Brandon’s next city council. The site will even tell you the number of hours and minutes until polls open, should you be waiting with bated breath to mark your ballot.
Participation in elections, both by electors and those who chose to run for office, is a central proposition of democracy. If you live in a jurisdiction, whether municipal, provincial or federal, are eligible to vote, and simply don’t bother to do so, you are a resident of that jurisdiction but not a true citizen.
Citizens participate. Admittedly, not everyone can contribute at the highest level, but the minimum level of participation for meaningful citizenship, beyond strictly technical definitions, is to vote.
With a little less than two months to go to election day, campaigning will now begin to heat up in Brandon and in Westman’s rural municipalities. Candidates will start to make their platforms more specific (at least so we hope) and the core issues that will define the races for councillors’ seats and the mayor’s and reeve’s offices will become clearer.
Serving in public office is the highest form of participation in democracy. We are encouraged that more candidates are coming forward. The mayoral race in Brandon now features three contenders; the downtown Rosser ward will be contested by at least three candidates; candidates are still coming forward in the RMs; and according to the city’s website, at least four of 10 wards in Brandon will be contested.
As of last count, 18 citizens have tossed their hat into the ring in Brandon. Nominations do not close until Sept. 16. We hope enough candidates continue to come forward that all wards in all municipalities will be contested. Retiring councillor Murray Blight was correct when he argued earlier this year that too many council seats were in danger of being acclaimed.
Debate is also essential to democracy. It thrives when the viewpoints under discussion are diverse, and that occurs when more voices are heard. While we commend candidates for coming forward, it would be overly generous to describe debate so far as vague; completely devoid of clearly articulated specifics would be more like it.
A battle over this lack of particulars erupted on Twitter in recent days. Journalists bemoaned the vapid nature of “mom and apple pie” policy statements while candidates challenged each other to come up with actual planks for their platforms. Brandon Sun staff challenged candidates to come up with just one concrete idea and offered several of their own — a kind of buffet of free policy ideas.
Could candidates come up with one bylaw each that they would introduce, revise or scrap? Something more concrete than offering mindless platitudes about supporting this cause or identifying some issue du jour?
We encourage everyone to pay attention to the civic debate over the next 57 days. Demand specifics from candidates, consider the platforms on offer, and vote on Oct. 22.
After all, if you don’t vote, don’t complain.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 25, 2014