Debate should be kept civil

By July 30 2018, municipal elections will be in full swing across Ontario, after nominations are certified. Speculation has it, that this next election will be a busy one.

Mayor Alls from Erin indicated when he ran last time he would only serve for one term. He could change his mind between now and then. We have also heard from reliable sources that another mayor has more or less decided this will be his last term, but we’ll let him make his own announcement. The point is the next election could well see numerous changes around council tables across the county.

We received a series of letters this past month from Centre Wellington councillors and now this week from the mayor. Each offer legitimate albeit differing opinions, but our editor has called a halt to letters from politicians since an election is approximately a year away.

If we can point to one reasonable change the premier has made during her reign, it is that nomination periods have been reduced. The previous date of Jan. 1, made for a hellish long campaign period and some of us argued it made for a year of petty politics and foot dragging. At least now council can establish its budget and get some work underway before campaigns begin in earnest.

The passage of a code of conduct (although months overdue) for Centre Wellington councillors this past Tuesday was welcome News. It was passed unanimously with a few minor changes and comments. Perhaps the whole subject of a code of conduct was best summed up by rookie councillor Don Fisher when he said “all this is asking for is that we be civil.”

Every decade seems to be a little different and by no means could it be suggested that there ever were good old days, free of nastiness in municipal politics. But it does seem to us that the lines of decency have been blurred a little. Far too quickly, debates become personal rather than driven on issues themselves.

Whether coincidence or an emerging trend, we didn’t want to see our letters page commandeered for political purposes. Readers are more than welcome to offer opinions on council activities, but really, the place for debate and opinion for politicians is in their own council chamber, not in the local paper.

Certainly we all have problems – but imagine for a moment if all seven municipalities and the county level representatives decided to use the letters page as a way to debate their problems. It would likely be entertaining, but we would end up broke trying to accommodate the fights each week. There is another point, more important than that.

It has always been our hope to see communities within our coverage area prosper and for people entrusted with leading the municipality to get along. Allowing politicians to rehash subjects after not getting their way at a meeting is the antithesis of our hope for effective, thoughtful debate on issues affecting the very communities we call home.