Municipal election day in Ontario is today, October 24. When I go to the local polling station I get to choose who I want to represnet me as mayor, councillor and school board trustee. One thing that I won'[t be doing is putting an X next to my own name.
I was asked by several people to consider running for Ottawa city council. The time Is right, they said. The incumbent councillor in your area is retiring. You could win.
Ultimately I think that may be what dissuaded me. I might win.
I am a political junkie, but I have my limits. One of those involves running for elected office. I’m not convinced I have the right temperament.
There was also a question of interest. The municipality is the most important level of governemnt in terms of directly impacting citizens’ daily lives. We all have opinions on potholes in the roads, the transit system, garbage collection and the condition of public parks. Proper management is important, I know that.
I also know that municipal government has been the area of politics that has interested me the least. It isn’t good to have an elected representative who doesn’t really want the job – and given teh candidates running in my ward I think I probably would have won.
I was talking with a Member of Parliament a few weeks ago who was first elected lin 2021. He admitted that at first he had been a little overwhelmed. He was passionate about politics, like me, but was a businessman. He never saw himself as running for office. Then he was asked to put his name forward, and he won.
It is tough to say no when people come to you and tell you that you are the best choice to represent them. However, say “no” I did.
We spend a lot of time complaining about the actions and inactions of our politicians. Some days that seems like all I do. I do try to be positive, offering solutions to the problems I identify.
Today though I want to acknowledge the sacrifices politicians make on our behalf. Little family life, always being on the job, having to be polite to idiots (including me). It is a wonder we get candidates of such high quality as we have. Why would anyone in their right minds run for public office?
It isn’t the money. City councillors are reasonably well paid – but they work a lot of hours. I did some quick calculations and have concluded it works out to about $20 hourly. You could make that much working in a fast food joint, and teh customers would probably treat you better.
People enter political life because they want to make things better and serve others. If money is your motive, there are many ways to make more faster than being a politician.
There is the problem that many of those who want to make things better have no idea of what they are talking about or the effects of their policies when applied to the real world. I’ve heard a lot of candidates in the current municipal election suggest that affordable housing is their top priority. That sounds good (though I’m not sure that is the biggest problem the city faces right now.) But what do they mean?
A few years agoo, I ghost-wrote a book about affordable housing in Canada. It is a subject on which I have some knowledge, maybe even expertise. Nothing I have heard from any miunicipal candidate this year indicates they fully understand the problem. Which means their solutions won’t work.
I’m not sure how we solve that problem. A quiz for prospective candidates to weed out the uniformed seems anti- democratic. Which means we will continue to elect people who sound good but don’t really have a clue what to do.
Maybe you have a solution to that one. The only thing I am sure of is that my name isn’t on the ballot today. So don’t vote for me, no matter how tempting it is.