For me, the toughest part of my job is not dealing with reporters, correspondents, laying out the paper, writing stories or making sure we can actually fill the paper. For me, it is without a doubt, whether we write a critical piece or make a mistake, running into those people in the grocery store or while having lunch. This, of course, drives us to do our absolute best that any critical piece is as fair and balanced as possible and that what we write is accurate; we’re not a faceless organization nor are the subjects of our stories.
Now when it comes to government, we often pay a lot of attention to the provincial and federal government, the Trans Mountain pipeline being a prime example, and much less so to the local elections. Case in point, the voter turnout during the 2015 federal election was 68.3 per cent and 57.7 per cent during the 2017 provincial election while only 44.5 per cent in the 2014 B.C. municipal elections.
Yet on the flip side of that, you’re not going to run into John Horgan or Justin Trudeau in the local grocery store, in fact as far as I’m aware, neither even made a stop in 100 Mile House during the 2017 Wildfires. You might run into your local MLA or MP, but, even if they try very hard, their areas are huge, compared to their municipal counterparts and they have to spend time in Ottawa or Victoria. Although, you can usually get a glimpse of them at public events and their offices are open to you should you want to bend their ear. The ones you’re most likely to run into are your mayor, councillors or regional district directors. If they’re anything like me, that should also make them a lot more accountable; it’s much harder to break a promise when you have to see the recipients of that broken promise every day. According to TrudeauMeter (which keeps track of Trudeau’s promises), he’s broken 41 and not started another 44. If I was mayor or councillor and I’d broken that many promises over the course of four years, I’d be looking to move I would think.
Furthermore, when it comes to the provincial and federal elections, your vote is one of millions, while for many in municipal elections, your vote will be one of hundreds determining the outcome. When it comes to federal and provincial politics, we are much more faceless than when it comes to our municipal politics.
Especially after 2017, the “power” and importance of municipal governments couldn’t be clearer either: it wasn’t Trudeau or Horgan agonizing over whether to call or lift evacuation orders.
One of the big provincial debates and political posturing has been over the MSP premiums which were $150 in 2017 for a family with two adults. The tax for building the South Cariboo Rec Centre expansion would have been up to an additional $65 per $100,000 of land value. Something that may have well been similar to MSP premiums for many families.
We vastly undervalue the importance of municipal elections. They say every vote matters, but municipal elections may well be where your vote matters most: whether firefighters show up when your house catches fire this winter, whether the road is ploughed, whether your garbage is picked up and whether your water is safe to drink (for many), it happens or doesn’t happen because of municipal politicians.