The auditioning is over and soon the job will begin. Prince Edward County electors have spoken and 14 candidates have emerged as the first group to sit on a newly reduced council at Shire Hall. Indeed, it’s an exciting time with fresh visions coming to the forefront — particularly since there will only be five faces returning from the group that governed the municipality over the past four years. There’s plenty of potential in this group.
For this council to succeed, it is vitally important that they build a strong connection with the public that elected them and seek to involve as many viewpoints as possible when making decisions.Communications and accountability can make or break any politician. It will also be important for the 14 faces to build some cohesion and mutual respect as the next four years will be an important time for the county to plan as it attracts more growth and immigration from other areas. That’s not to say that all 14 voices have to agree on every issue, but simply that it can be easy to become bogged down in details and not move forward on an agenda.
In this politicized and somewhat litigious society, the responsibilities of elected officials seem as great as they’ve ever been and the next four years would appear to be particularly challenging with a new provincial government prepared to make snap decisions, perhaps guided by austerity, and a federal election looming to add another wrinkle of uncertainty.
Governance of this municipality is at a critical stage as well as housing and service prices are making it difficult for people to find attainable, affordable accommodations. That’s important, not only because those workers are the ones who will help sustain the lucrative tourism industry, but also because they pay taxes, support local business, and sustain schools. Council must find a balance that continues attracts investment but also that builds on the year-round population and tax base. The trick, of course, is encouraging growth with a limited bag of resources at hand.
These new councillors will also play a critical role in deciding how to better offer services to municipal residents. Is there a revenue stream they can find to prop up crumbling roads without raising taxes? How does the municipality support recreational and cultural facilities like arenas and Town Halls and is their economic value simply a line item in a ledger, or are there unquantified benefits? Is there a further municipal role to play in advocating for the new hospital and attracting doctors, and if so, where does that rank on the list of priorities. Everyone has ideas, but Mayor-elect Steve Ferguson and his council will be expected to develop a vision and deliver.
Time will tell how they face those challenges. Right now, each of the successful and unsuccessful candidates should be congratulated for their willingness to face those challenges and give of themselves for positive change.