Democracy doesn't end when the election is over

Posted 10.27.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | An election's real importance is not who wins but what happens later. Elections are the start, not the culmination, of democracy.

We voters do our best to follow the issues, interviews, the debates and campaign ads, and we each have our own concerns. We tease out information from all the promises and accusations, off-the-cuff remarks, and the rumours from the people with vested interests. There's a disinformation campaign mixed in with the information campaign. Plenty of rumours! In short, we all do our homework and hope we get our voting choices correct.

We aren't picking a lottery number -- we hope -- but no candidate comes with a guarantee. Our homework gives us an inkling of what we might expect; real life throws so many unexpected curves that promises are only guidelines. That is why voting is just the beginning, not the end of our citizen opportunities and responsibilities.

Nor is it because politicians are unreliable. Politicians are humans, just like you and I. How successful were we in fulfilling our New Year's resolutions?

Political leaders are dealing with the unknown, big time. Economic conditions, natural disasters, decisions by higher governments, even the changing flavours in the media, affect how they fulfill their election promises.

A streetcar line, for example, may sound great, but it requires huge investments by the provincial and federal governments. A disaster in the housing market, as the USA just experienced, would mean city revenues collapse. This is the real, and unknown, world of governing our city.

This real world of government includes us. We have to stay engaged. Merely voting -- and then forgetting about city hall -- is starting a job and not finishing it. Voting is the first (or second) step, never the last.

What comes after the election is affected by all the conditions of the real world, but it will be influenced mostly by us. We have to stay in contact with our councillors, take our own concerns to city council meetings, attend public meetings on local issues, read public notices and bylaw changes in the newspaper -- keep our eye on the ball, in other words.

Voting in a new council and then doing nothing more than complain about road conditions, snow clearing, permit delays, parks, speeding, public transit -- all the important things which impact our lives day after day -- this is not like the weather! There is something we can do about all these things.

Our leaders need continual reminding of our priorities. You and I are the people to do this.

So, vote! Do your duty on voting day, November 3, but remember that this is only opening the door. Go through that door. Make sure your concerns, your street's problems, your kids' school and sports needs, make sure all these things are on and stay on the city council agenda.

The biggest part of an election starts once the election is over. That's what democracy gives us.


Copyright © 2013 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/10.13