It was with sadness we learned of the resignation of Councillor Ben Van de Walle due to health reasons. We are not alone in thanking the man for his service to the municipality or in wishing him a return to health. But his resignation and council’s subsequent decision to hold a bi-election Sept. 20 leaves us with the prospect of selecting a member of the community to fill the vacant seventh seat at Council.
Any election opens the ballot to a variety of candidates with a variety of motivations and/or agendas. Bi-elections may even be a greater opportunity for agenda-driven people or those with axes to grind to throw their hat in the ring. We hope this is not the case when nominations close in one week.
This council, like virtually every other in the region or province, has certainly not done everything right. But neither have they done everything wrong.
Sadly, some who would seek office in a bi-election will do so out of a misguided belief that everything is rotten in Denmark … or Morinville … and seek to prove the point by being a municipal curmudgeon. Not that the occasional bit of cantankerousness is not needed in Council Chambers, but whoever the successful candidate is needs to be able to work with what is in motion as much as they need to apply their vote to ensure the boat gets back on course when it strays too far from shore.
Morinville is no longer that little community depicted in our tableaus, murals and history books. While it needs to preserve those traditions as part of its fabric, it also needs to deal with the realities of a community that is neither entirely rural nor entirely urban. It needs to deal with the realities of providing services to an increasingly diverse make up of residents. And it must deal with the realities of ensuring each planning decision it makes meets with the approval of the Capital Region Board, a body that can give thumbs up or thumbs down to any major development.
The municipal council of today is no longer merely about whether or not to put a new park bench on Main Street or plopping a couple swings in a sub-development’s park.
It is about navigating, as a layman, through an ever-increasingly complex set of national, provincial, and regional rules and making the best short- and long-term decisions for the residents of the community who have entrusted them with the keys of office.
While we on the outside see and read of the decisions Council makes or the ribbons they cut, we often do not see the hundreds and hundreds of pages of documentation they are required to digest each month or the many committees, sub-committees and meetings they must attend to have the overview of what is going on.
Despite the problems in Morinville – and there are many that have stuck in the craw of many of us – there is good momentum here.
While the next member of Morinville Town Council need not be a yes man or woman, going along with whatever the veterans say, they should have public service and the interests of the community as a whole at heart and as their motivation for seeking office.
To elect a candidate with an axe to grind against any councillor or Council as a whole; to elect any candidate who wants to beat his or her pet agenda into submission; to elect any candidate who wants to run because they’ve got a lot of spare time on their hands but no understanding of what it is all about would be a mistake.
We’ll know next week who we have to choose from on Sept. 20. Let’s choose wisely. A bi-election is not a throw away election. Research the candidates and make your vote count for Morinville.