As I was bouncing around town on Canada Day I ran into a number of folks who wanted to talk not of fireworks and maple leaves, but rather the upcoming municipal election.
“Where are all the candidates?” was a common question asked of me by residents as they dabbed at beads of sweat on their foreheads.
I understand people's eagerness to know who they will have to choose from when they cast their ballots in October; I too await with anticipation for each new candidacy announcement. But there's still nearly a month to go in the nomination period, so there is plenty of time for potential candidates to make their decision and file their paperwork.
What I was more interested in as I chatted with those residents who brought up the current lack of candidates was what issues are important to them. Overwhelmingly the new library was the first issue mentioned, with some excited about what is to come, and others who are clinging to hope that the next council will cancel the plan all together (an unlikely scenario).
The next most common issue on the minds of those I talked to was roads. For as long as I have been reporting on news and events in this municipality, the condition of our roads has typically been at the top of the list of people's complaints. In talking to residents and reporters from other municipalities, it would seem that Meaford is far from alone in this respect, and given the enormous task at hand, I think roads will top the complaint list for decades to come as municipalities grapple with their infrastructure funding deficits and bad roads continue to crumble.
Another topic that cropped up more than once in speaking to people over the weekend was one that I have heard before but that I thought had gone away. “We need an indoor swimming pool in this town,” I heard from more than one person. Maybe it was the sweltering heat, or maybe people forget that we live beside a rather huge swimming pool called Georgian Bay, but whatever it is, the desire for an indoor pool won't go away. I have written in years past when the issue has come up that while an indoor pool sounds wonderful, they aren't exactly affordable for small communities. From the research I've done in the past, the population required to adequately operate an indoor public swimming pool is in the neighbourhood of 50,000 residents – and we are far from that, so as much as some people really would like to see an indoor pool come to town, a new council will find the same thing that previous councils have found, we're just not big enough to afford it.
For those that are considering a run at council there's another issue on the minds of Meaford voters, and it's an issue that can be easy to forget given the July heat – winter road maintenance. Even under the blazing sun, some that I talked to were still fuming over what they perceived to be shoddy work on our roads over this past winter, and I suspect that when candidates are knocking on doors in August and September they will hear the same thing.
Whatever the issues that are on our minds, first we need some candidates to consider, and with the July 27 nomination deadline looming, it won't be long before we will know exactly who we will have to choose from in October, and what their positions on the issues are.
For those planning on running for a council seat, you no doubt have your own list of issues you'd like to tackle, and it is important to share those ideas with the voters, but even more importantly, you need to listen, listen, listen. Yes, the voters want to hear your ideas and solutions, but more than that, they want to be heard, and if the voters feel like the candidate isn't listening, they will likely move their vote along to someone else.
The campaign season is coming, let's hope we're all ready.