Every Canadian’s ‘favourite’ season is fast approaching. No, I’m not talking about winter. It’s election time!
It always strikes me as amazing how many people choose not to vote. Sure they have their reasons. But really, do they not realize how lucky they are to have that right? I know that I sound like a lame public service announcement, but I for one couldn’t wait to turn 18 and enjoy the privilege.
The main excuse I hear is “Well one vote doesn’t make a difference”. Well no, it probably doesn’t. But if you added up ALL of the votes that aren’t made, well, now you’re talking. The percentage of eligible voters who choose not to participate is growing ever closer to the number that do. Do you know what that means? If a majority of disengaged citizens actually went to the voting booth and chose change, we’d actually see some progress!
The other reason usually given is that “all politicians are the same. None deserve my vote.” Well guess what? That’s false too! Politicians are like tumours: Some are lethal, while other’s are just benign. Except in the case of politicians, we get to make the choice. Of course, I believe that there are sincere individuals out there who care about their communities and would make a real difference if elected. Where are they? No one votes for them. Why not? Because the ones who would be inclined to do so are too busy being disenchanted with the democracy they’re blessed to have a chance to participate in.
So now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to vote, who should you vote for? I won’t be so arrogant as to tell you which candidates I think would be best for Cornwall (although I’d like to!). But I will say this: There are certain individuals who currently sit at the Council table who are too frugal or backward thinking to make positive progress for the future. And there are some that are more interested in having their names engraved on plaques in big but unnecessary projects. There are also some new candidates running, some young, that I think would bring fresh idea’s and a social conscious to Council meetings that would truly benefit our community. And then there are those, both already on and vying for a spot on Council, that straddle the fence between the two.
Here are some thoughts to consider. Our current Council has done a good job of keeping Cornwall’s head above water in troubling times. Cornwall has come out of an economic crisis and the closure of our largest employer intact. We are not the ghost town we were supposed to become. But they also spent vital time and money building an expensive arena, trying to raise their salaries, fighting to keep their expense accounts and attempting to acquire ergonomic chairs (Hint: if your sore after 2 hours of sitting at a Council meeting, you may be too old for the job. Also, think about the citizens in those cheap plastic things you call chairs. And of course the cameramen who have to stand through the whole thing).
And all the while glaring issues were ignored. A high rate of poverty stemming from too many low-paying jobs with no benefits and laughable mental health resources. Our children are leaving and not coming back, and are spreading the message to the rest of the province and country that Cornwall has nothing to offer anyone. We remain the only municipality without a secondary wastewater treatment plant. Our hospital suffers from a lack of funding and are forced to make cuts. Public pools are closing in favour of fun but inferior splash pads.
But as I said, Cornwall survives. But we are at a crossroads. We can either maintain the status quo or make vital progress and advance into the future. We can make sure that our young men and women are educated in Cornwall and can find employment in their field right here at home. We can be a frontrunner in environmentalism by attracting ‘green’ jobs. We can develop our waterfront in a manner that will allow all citizens to enjoy it as well as attract tourists. We can support our talented arts community and create and maintain new events and festivals that will encourage people to travel to Cornwall. We can put money into mundane but vital services such as transit, roads, water and recreation so as to provide a great quality of life to our citizens.
It’s almost time to decide Cornwall. So I implore you, get out and vote. And before you do, consider long and hard the implications of who you vote for. We can make a difference.
Gabriel Riviere-Reid – Cornwall Ontario
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