Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Backwards, and Too Little...Too Late

The Strategic Initiatives Committee of Oshawa City Council today agreed to recommend to Council that, a) a public meeting be held to get citizen feedback about returning to the general vote, and b) to prepare a brochure to be distributed to all residents explaining the pros/cons of each system. We will publish the meeting date when it is set.

While these communication efforts are commendable, they should have been done prior to the recent elections when voters were confronted "cold" in the voting booth with a confusing question that required them to vote "NO" to retain the present system, never having before considered, discussed, or been informed about the advantages/disadvantages of either system. It appeared that Council strategized to keep the question secret as their "weapon" in best securing their preferred vote for a change to the general vote.

On such an important question having such significant impact on the vibrancy of Political Leadership in Oshawa and thus to the future of this city, no amount of effort should be spared to insure that voters are able to give a wise and informed vote. I suggested in a letter to the Mayor and Council well in advance of the vote that such a brochure should be written and distributed and even offered to write the "copy" supporting the ward vote. My suggestion and advice was never acknowledged or acted upon.

It seems backward to me that this public meeting and information brochure is after the vote has taken place. A much more logical chain of events would have been for each councilor to have a series of meetings in their own wards even to get input as to whether the referendum question should have been "put" in the first place. There was not a whimper of public concern regarding the ward system and therefore it is unlikely that even those "self-serving" politicians who wanted to protect their council seats through a change to the general vote could raise any public sentiment to their cause. In fact, I suspect such an attempt to blatantly serve themselves would have undermined their own campaigns in the recent election.

The incumbent politicians know well that the general vote secures their political future while the ward vote requires them to keep "on the run" serving their constituents. When I accused one politician, Nester Pidwerbecki, who is Council's strongest proponent of the general vote of simply wanting the change to secure his political future, he said, "At my age?” I replied, "Certainly at your age, you'd want the general vote because you could get elected simply on your name recognition without any campaign. You could go to Florida during elections, as prior general vote councilors members have done, and still get elected."

Many Incumbent politicians want the general vote because it guarantees their re-election. We don't want to return to the days where politicians grow stale in office and death or resignation is the dominant reason for change. We want vibrant and energetic leadership for this city and this is much more likely with ward votes where politicians are accountable to the neighborhood taxpayers and they are able to be defeated when they are no longer up to the job.

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