Municipal politics matters – a lot

Some interesting drama on election night.  Saint Johners voted for change in a big way.  I think Mel Norton will be a good leader in the Port City.   I have always felt that cities take on the persona of their mayor – I know that sounds kind of strange but when Brian Murphy was mayor of Moncton the city got a reputation for being a brash, confident – even an arrogant place (i.e. Brian Murphy) and now the city has a kind of firm but nice persona – a gentle giant – sounds like George Leblanc.  Saint John under Elsie – it seemed to me – kind of took on an Elsie Wayne kind of persona.  Brad Woodside, in many ways, is Fredericton.  He will continue to be elected as long as he wants the job.

Based on my superficial logic, I think under Norton Saint John will emerge as more confident, youthful and optimistic.

Shelley Rinehart is a Saint John institution.  She won councillor at large by the combined votes of the second and third place candidates.  She will be a good addition to City Hall.

In Fredericton, Leah Levac beat out my old colleague Steve Kelly.   Andy Scott tells me Leah is one of the brightest people he knows.  Sounds like a good addition to City Hall as well.

Dawn Arnold, the brains behind the Northrup Frye Festival in Moncton, also won by a landslide in the Councillor at Large race.  She paid for billboard advertising around the city and I kept getting Facebook ads with her picture on them and she crafted a manifesto.   I suspect she could have won the race for Queen of the Universe if that was her goal.  It will be interesting to see her career trajectory – I suspect she has higher office in view.

Only about 40 percent of those eligible to vote actually voted.

Followers of this blog will know of my belief that local politics matters.  Because NB is a small province and because of decisions made decades ago, cities have limited political power.   It seems they don’t even have much influence on the location of schools and other provincial government buildings within the city limits.

However, people do not live in ‘provinces’ or ‘countries’.  They live in neighbourhoods – inside cities, towns and villages.  Just about everything that impacts their lives happens close to home – work, school, health care, shopping, parks, services, etc.

This reality matters now more than ever.  If people don’t like their city, they will leave.  Skilled workers have never been more mobile.  Nearly 13,000 people moved out of New Brunswick in 2010/2011.  The Moncton CMA lost 4,500 people to out-migration in 2009 (that’s over three percent of its population) – although it made up for the out-migration with an even larger in-migration.

The point is that cities need to be places that are attractive to live (as well as work) and that is where City Hall comes in.

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4 Responses to Municipal politics matters – a lot

  1. To me the major story is that voter turnout was less than 40 percent across the province, and around the 32 or 33 percent mark in Moncton. I know municipal election turnout is traditionally low, but this is nearing rock bottom.

    Also, Dawn Arnold did not win by a landslide – she took 9519 votes, compared to 7304, 7069 and 5049 received by her competitors. A good result, to be sure, but not a landslide. I would also say that calling her the “brains behind the Frye Festival” is a bit unfair to the people who actually founded the festival (council member Paulette Thériault, in 1999) and to those others who work on it today. I have nothing against Dawn Arnold – actually, I voted for her – but think what is said here is overstated.

  2. You say potato, I say potahto. Winning by 2,200 votes in a hotly contested race seems like a good margin to me. And Arnold won an Order of New Brunswick for her work with Frye. Acknowledging her work is not a slight to the many others who have been involved with Frye and it is silly to imply this.

  3. mikel says:

    Don’t get too testy, you DID say “the brains behind the Northrop Frye festival”, which certainly seems to attribute to her, well, the festival. And I agree, ‘landslide’ is a bit of a stretch, but elections tend to bring out the hyperbole. Ivan Court was certainly trounced in Saint John, but i think the voter turnout for Mayor was about 15% there.

    Not to be too critical, but the blog says both that municipal elections are really important, then adds several reasons why they really don’t matter at all. That 40% turnout is still an accomplishment, I think only the atlantic coast gets that kind of turnout. I honestly don’t know whether that makes maritimers bigger suckers, or whether its actually a good thing.

    Whats sadly ironic is that here in ontario and places west the turnout is lucky to be HALF that amount. And more to the point, unlike NB, courts and legislatures have been dumping all kinds of responsibilities on municipalities, so they have a LOT more power. It seems the more important the vote, the less likely people are to vote.

    What always surprises me about NB is that with higher than average turnout there really is LESS variety than other places. And apart from massive financial malfeasance, its virtually impossible to unseat a sitting representative. There was a guy in Fredericton who has a law degree but was part of the occupy movement who got like, 26 votes. If that isn’t a signal for those who really want change to not bother with elections, I don’t know what is.

  4. Will says:

    You’re so right. I will be moving out of Sackville as soon as I can as they are ‘anti-business’, even against wind energy (went to Amherst, NS). And my property taxes are over $5000/yr (on septic/drilled well) while they spent tens of thousands on ‘annuals’ instead of putting in perennials, built a new $15 million building with mortgage, spent $100K on artwork nationally instead of showcases local student talent (for basically free), hiring consultants without council approval, etc. I could go on and on.

    i for one will be happy when they consolidate the ridings as there is so much duplication and waste. Young people and professionals are leaving the towns to the crusty old folks who don’t want any change whatsover which perpetuates the cycle.

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