I wonder at the wisdom of having council meetings during an election campaign. This only occurs at the municipal level, but even there it’s not in all municipalities. It can be argued that publicized meetings give incumbents extra free opportunities for getting their messages across. Of course the risk is that some of the wrong messages can get out too.
For example, the last council meeting involved a discussion on fluoridation, which caught some councillors outside their comfort zone and looking rather less than objective.
A staff report on a safety hazard at the water plant recommended some essential and costly upgrades to the fluoride system for our water supply, but also hinted that doing away with fluoride might be the better option. This was not some anti-fluoride interest group; it was their own professional staff.
Debate began with an immediate call for a deferral until Dr. Roumeliotis could come and convince them yet again of the importance of fluoride in the water. In fact, some councillors had already been talking to him in anticipation. There was very little focus on the employee safety issue. They sort of agreed that someone should be found to present an alternative view. But nobody knew who or what that might be. It left an impression that it would be just a formality anyway; the doctor’s input is really the only one that matters.
You can already see how this is going to end. It should really be set aside until the new council is in place with a fresh mandate.
Personally, I’m OK with fluoride in the water. But, once the employee safety aspect is settled, I think fluoridation really should have some public input. Not the usual type of public input: one or two public meetings at the Civic Complex, attended by a hundred or so of the regulars who normally attend those things.
I’m thinking referendum or some similar mechanism where the other 30,000 of us can make our preference known. Our opinion matters because it affects every one of us who drinks city water. Of course, a referendum cannot happen now until 2018.
On another topic, I agree somewhat with a recent call for more polling stations. Toronto has one polling station for every 960 voters. A similar ratio here would mean some 32 stations. Instead, we’ll have only 10 and another 16 limited to seniors’ homes and the like. Of course, it takes much less time and effort to get around Cornwall than Toronto, so 32 may be unrealistic but if you don’t have a car, the difficulties can seem quite similar. I think the city is making an effort to target high-density areas, but some parts of town could be better served.
I am less concerned about seniors getting out to vote – they are one cohort that does so, consistently. Then again, for many, the polling station comes to them. The focus needs to be on what inhibits younger people from exercising their vote. I think the time for Internet polling has come and should be seriously looked at for the future.
One final note. We seem to have public election debates set up for arts issues, for labour union issues and for business community issues. Each of them could well touch on some of the things that concern the general population. But there is no debate that is specifically focussed on residential concerns. Yet residents are the only ones who can vote and they form the largest block of taxpayers.
And that’s the way I see it.