The provincial government and organizations representing municipalities are worried about getting people to run for council. There is even a campaign on this summer to encourage people to offer themselves for public office.
Even here in populous Conception Bay South, where there should be many residents anxious to make a difference, there is not much going on in the election front beyond those already in office.
Perhaps it is the time of the year and people are waiting until September to announce their candidacy. Potential candidates may have been working behind the scenes for months and will make an announcement in the weeks before the Sept. 24 election.
Of course, it may simply be that people are just not that interested in public office.
Officials with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) have repeatedly highlighted the difficulty in getting people, especially our younger generation, to run for office. There is also the aging council population — the average age is 55 and increasing — so there is a need to get some new people on our councils.
Getting people excited about public office is often difficult in smaller communities with shrinking populations and tax bases combined with demands for more services.
In larger towns, it should not be as difficult to attract candidates, but it seems to be the case.
Holding municipal elections in September could be a factor. From May until September many people are thinking about vacation and relaxation and not working on a campaign.
The province is running a “Make Your Mark” campaign to get people interested in municipal politics. If you have not already planned to run for office, a provincial campaign over the summer may not be enough to convince you to commit to a September election.
As for attracting younger people, they may be civic–minded in that they volunteer and are involved in their communities, but it does not translate into political office. MNL says just under four per cent of elected officials are under 35, so we need more young people around our council tables.
If the province and MNL want to encourage this age group to run, a good way would be to start using social media — Facebook, Twitter and the like — to reach them. The “Make Your Mark” website through the Department of Municipal Affairs has some Internet links, videos and a bunch of downloadable documents. Even those with a laptop and printer do not want to be downloading and printing a bunch of documents to tell them about running for office.
Here in C.B.S., there has been very little election activity, so we hope that the provincial campaign generates more candidates beyond the current incumbents.
Present Ward 3 (Kelligrews area) Coun. Ken McDonald is hoping to unseat Mayor Woodrow French. Coun. Kirk Youden, who at 39 is the youngest of our councillors, is seeking one of the four at-large seats after two terms serving as the representative for Ward 4 — Upper Gullies and Seal Cove.
Former C.B.S. fire chief Richard Murphy is a new candidate, running in Ward 4. Several people are expected to contest Ward 3.
The election is just two months away, so if there are people here in C.B.S. going to run, why wait to announce it when you could have months to be maximizing social and conventional media and speaking out about public issues and generating your votes?
Again, it may be that people are just not that interested in getting their name on the ballot. Some may get motivated by the provincial campaign, which really needs to begin years in advance, so start it right after this year’s election and we may see more candidates when elections roll around again.
Joan Butler is a lifelong resident of Kelligrews, Conception Bay South. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.