Well, it’s almost past my bedtime, folks, but I can’t retire without giving you a report on this evening’s all-candidates meeting in Queensborough. All of those seeking election (or re-election) for Municipality of Tweed council and public school-board positions in the Oct. 27 municipal vote had been invited to appear, and sure enough, all of them showed up at the venue, the Queensborough Community Centre – our historic former one-room schoolhouse. (Incumbent Mayor Jo-Anne Albert was not invited since she has been acclaimed for another term, having been unopposed.) As for the audience, there was a very respectable turnout, people not just from Queensborough but from other parts of the Greater Tweed Area (as well as some interested visitors from next-door Madoc Township).
It had been a long time since I attended an all-candidates meeting for a municipal election; the last time would have been sometime during my career as a reporter for the tiny Port Hope (Ont.) Evening Guide daily newspaper, way back in the 1990s. And Raymond? As far as he can recall, it was a first. So that was kind of cool.
It was a well-run (by our neighbour Brian MacNeil, who ably served as moderator) and largely low-key affair, with the candidates making brief statements to start and then questions invited from the audience. As you would surely expect, the issues raised were very local ones, and that’s just as it should be; the whole point of municipal governments is that they represent people at the strictly local level.
I suspect I was not the only one in the crowd who was a little disappointed not to hear more about Queensborough per se from the candidates in their opening speeches; two or three made mention of our little hamlet, but it didn’t go much farther than that. Overall their focus seemed to be on issues that affect the village of Tweed, as opposed to the Municipality of Tweed – a much larger geographical entity encompassing vast rural, and even wilderness, areas as well as several hamlets like Queensborough. I was pleased to see that audience members smartly turned the candidates’ attention to issues closer to us than how urban Tweed deals with its too-low sewage-capacity situation. People, out here we are in septic-tank territory, and our only real concern about whether the village of Tweed gets a new sewage lagoon or a full waste-treatment plant is how much it will affect our property taxes.
So yeah, the Queensborough folks raised Queensborough issues, and that was great. Issues like road plowing, and school-bus stops, and the lack of garbage and recycling pickup, and an issue that is really close to my heart: the lack of reasonably-priced and reliable high-speed internet here. (There was much applause and general agreement whenever that issue got raised; I was happy to see such clear proof that others care about our execrable internet situation as much as I do.) The candidates were asked about deterioration of the bridge leading into the hamlet from the east, and why some of the popular summer Music in the Park events in Tweed can’t be held in the park in Queensborough. Some excellent suggestions were made (from both the audience and the candidates), including designating a geographical area of responsibility for each council member, so that each area’s interests and concerns would have a champion at the council table; doing more to celebrate and promote this area’s aboriginal and French Canadian heritage; establishing a municipal composting program, with the compost sold back to residents for use in their gardens; more support for beautification programs; instituting a buy-local policy for the municipality; and so on.
It was the farthest thing from slick politics. It was down-home politics, the candidates getting close to the people they want to represent and the people getting a close-up look at those candidates and their positions. And at the end there was an opportunity for one-on-one conversations over coffee and tea.
As Raymond and I walked back to the Manse through a very autumn-like chilly and rainy night, we agreed that it had been interesting and eye-opening. We both came away with changed minds on some of the people we plan to vote for.
Which means that the all-candidates night accomplished exactly what it should have: educating us voters about the issues and the candidates. And as Moderator MacNeil said, in the perfect ending to the evening: Now it’s up to all of us to get out there and vote!