By Vivian Collings
Dozens of committed citizens took the first step in leading the Highlands to a new future last week.
The importance of being involved in community council was highlighted at the So You Want to Run for Council information session for potential candidates on Tuesday, Apr. 26 at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 129 in Haliburton. With 20 people in attendance in person and 35 online, many new faces were present and eager to learn about the workings of municipal council and how they can be helpful in their community.
“[Council information sessions] like these are great because sometimes people think democracy ends with voting every four years,” said Minden Hills Ward 2 Councillor Pam Sayne. “We need to get rid of that idea and get people more involved and aware of the roles and responsibilities of local council.”
The hour-and-a-half long session was presented by Fred Dean, municipal coach, former Sudbury City solicitor, and facilitator for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
“Council represents the public. Members of council are out in the community bringing the concerns of people in the community to the council table,” Dean said. “It’s a wonderful place to be. Councils in any ten minutes can be really rewarding, sometimes frustrating, and great fun.”
The information session began with a discussion about the role of local governments. This was followed by the principles of municipal government, roles and responsibilities of all members of council, and personal considerations to take when contemplating a role in municipal council.
Both Sayne and Dysart et al Ward 4 Councillor John Smith said that the candidate session was informative even as experienced members.
“It is a good refresher on the profession, and the discussions give you a sense about what’s on people’s minds,” Smith said.
Sayne, in her eighth year as a councillor in Minden Hills, said that she will likely run for a third term. Smith has not yet decided. The candidate nomination period began May 2 and ends Aug. 19 at 2 p.m.
During a question period at the end of the session, Dean was asked about what members of the public can do if they would like to help the community but not run for council.
“In terms of getting involved in the municipal structure, you can join some of the local boards. There are also community groups that are active all the time. If you get yourself involved in those, you’ll begin to see the workings of government that way,” he said.
He urged anyone interested to contact their municipal clerk to find out about other specific ways to get involved in municipal government.
Voting day for the municipal elections of the Township of Minden Hills, Municipality of Dysart et al, the Township of Algonquin Highlands, and the Municipality of Highlands East takes place on Oct. 24 with advance voting beginning on Oct. 14.
If you missed the information session, you can find a link to the recording of the session here.