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Letter: The death of democracy is greatly exaggerated

Every four years, some know-it-all claims that towns that don’t have a contested election are a sign that democracy is dead

As Mark Twain said, “the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

As the mayor of Cape St. George and one who was returned by acclamation along with all the councillors who offered, I wish to point out a few rather overlooked facts.

The first is the massive number of Newfoundlanders who offered to serve. In the 200-plus towns of the province, that was over 1,000. For a province with only a half a million residents that is extraordinary. A province the size of a mid-sized Ontario city where only a dozen or so elected members are needed, sees a massive number of residents willing to absorb the trials and tribulations of office.

The second is size.

As the mayor of a town with 900 or so residents, I can look back at over 30 residents who have served on council over the 50 odd years since our incorporation.

But size also means the rural councillors serve without compensation, often without town managers, in an intimate way that occupies much more of your time than attendance at periodic meetings.

And while rural town councillors spend much more time actually managing the town in addition to the traditional tasks of setting policy, they provide support to the community above and beyond the norm.

When towns cannot field a full slate of councillors and must have a byelection, it does indicate a certain apathy or indifference. But when sitting councillors, some who have been in office for a decade or more re-offer, it indicates a functioning council that has accomplished much but wishes to do even more.

If that group of councillors has no opposition, it means no one else sees a need to change the direction the council has taken. It is, if you will, a full endorsement by the town’s residents.

Democracy is alive and well, despite the false news of the naysayers.

Peter Fenwick
Cape St. George mayor for 12 years

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