Saturday, October 22, 2005

Vote for a mix of preventionists and curists on November 19, 2005

"The only real power that councils have [in British Columbia] is landuse."
Vancouver Sun, Saturday, October 23, 2005.

Local politics anywhere in the world tend to reflect the larger world beyond. As a species we have moved quietly from hunter-gatherers to agrarians, traders and then industrialist consumers to this point now of informationalism.

Language and thought has enabled our species to differentiate between physical things and abstractions. We have defined humankind as being believers or non-believers, warlike or peaceful, unkind or kind, educated or uneducated, prosperous or poor, superior or inferior, valuable or worthless, fearless or fearful, helpful or helpless, productive or non-productive, giving or receiving, compassionate or uncaring.

Over history we have organized our communities, not always by design or intention, into groups. We have discovered as we did so that groups could not function without leaders; leaders who were entrusted with the primary responsibility of eliciting consensus from their groups. In time groups grew in number and as larger communities found it necessary to share physical and intellectual wealth. And here we are; planet earth 2005.

Most men and women will agree that we live in a complex place, where nature and our influence on nature and our neighbours make life no simpler. At some point a philosopher or early thinker must have caught sight of himself reflected in a river or lake and noticed for the first time the binary nature of nature. He would have been struck by the fact that he had a left side and a right side; on the left a hand, on the right a hand, on the left a leg, on the right a leg. The first nuance in the democratic process had been laid.

Thousands of years later we are so conditioned to the left and right that no community exists that is not defined thus. We have named them Republican and Democrats, Tories and Labour, Conservatives and Liberals, Capitalists and Communists, or Socialists. We have also, perhaps with excessive facility, come to associate right and left with characteristics by which we define them. We are seemingly inclined to believe that the characteristics of the left are uniquely left and not transferable to the right. Nor for that matter do the characteristics of the right seem transferable to the left.

From time to time ‘middle of the road’ politicians will emerge with centrist policies designed to appease and appeal to voters on the right and left. Seen by supporters of the left and the right as a tepid philosophy, middle of the road or popularist political innovations are generally short-lived, overcome eventually by either followers of the left or the right. A natural tension exists between left and right. And nature insures that neither side is ever allowed to dominate too long; thus nature itself becomes the ultimate middle of the road political force, swinging as it were from one side to the other, in a very measured way.

When the citizens of countries, or the electorate of provinces and states or, as is the case of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, the residents of a small Canadian town, go to the polls, they are essentially electing men and women who are regarded as being left or right or, perhaps middle of the road. One frequently hears the word ‘balanced’ when it comes to middle of the road politicians, an adjective which appears to elevate them to some snooty plateau from which they can look down on the unbalanced left or right candidates. The trouble with being balanced is that voters, rather than viewing balance as an asset, quite often interpret it as being tentative, unsure and wishy-washy. Consensus seeking, as a result, has pitfalls of its own.

A fully functioning and effective council with a consensus-seeking mayor is all the voters ask for. Council, almost like physicians, can provide cures and preventions for all the ills that may befall a community.

It is probably just as hard to look down the road ahead and spot those issues that can be prevented as it is to provide cures for those issues that previous council failed to prevent. Maple Ridge needs preventative measures as much as it does cures.

Vote for candidates who are likely to prevent: traffic congestion by promoting public transit; the proliferation of violent and drug-related crime; the degradation of air and water quality; the loss of agricultural, rural and natural land.

Vote for candidates who can find a cure for: affordable housing; homelessness; Sports-fields; local employment; care for seniors; better parks; forthright public consultation; and an effective and responsible Official Community Plan.

Vote for candidates who: recognize that local shopping opportunities are not the only solution to economic development.

In all of this: take to heart the fact that once you have public safety in the streets you have the basis for a healthy and successful community.

And focus on youth: today’s skateboarder is tomorrow’s leader.