Three cheers for democracy
To the Expositor:
At a recent Billings council meeting I attended, Mayor Ian Anderson was challenged to define what he thought his job was. The mayor replied, “to represent the interests of as many citizens of this community as possible.”
For some reason, judging by the negative head shaking in the public seating, that reply did not satisfy a vocal group in the audience, which I found strange! In Ontario’s case, municipalities are governed through the guidance of the Municipal Act. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs has developed a guide for council members which describes the mayor’s/head of council’s role as follows: “upholds and promote the purposes of the municipality; promotes public involvement in the municipality’s activities; acts as the representative of the municipality both within and outside the municipality, and promotes the municipality locally, nationally and internationally; and participates in and foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the municipality and its residents. Many citizens within a municipality will have high and often varied expectations for the head of council. The head of council must find a way to balance these expectations and special responsibilities. Municipal decisions, however, are made by council as a whole. Generally, the head of council does not have any more power than any other member of council to make decisions on behalf of the municipality. Each member of council only has one vote.”
I’d say Mayor Anderson’s answer was a pretty good summary of the role. Since he was not elected along with a “slate” of his preferred council members (as has been the case in some past elections – the mayor and his final four) I have to assume some members of his council may not be totally in alignment with his philosophy and his preferred direction for the township, but he clearly got the most votes in support of his proposals, so he would indeed appear, by the definitive measure, to represent more citizens than any other candidates for his position. From my perspective, I think this is a considerable improvement over what preceded this council. It opens up our elected representatives to having to listen more to citizens who were not part of some inner circle. Perhaps that inner circle is now feeling as if they have lost some power and influence? If that is the price of improved democratic decision making – then I’m more than happy to pay that price!