Embrace evening meetings
To the Editor,
It wasn’t much more than a generation ago that the council of the old Township of Anson, Hindon and Minden routinely sat down together after dinner to hold its meetings.
Now, in 2018, township councils across Central Ontario keep office hours. There may be vacancies to be filled in this fall’s elections, but folks with daytime jobs need not apply.
Here and there, a councillor suggests that better pay would bring the best the community has to offer out of the woodwork to seek election. The truth is, that wouldn’t make much difference. Folks who have to make a living from their trade or profession can’t take two days a month away from their regular jobs to attend daytime council meetings.
The result is that elected office in what should be the most democratic level of government is pretty much restricted to the retired and the self-employed.
Not that there is anything wrong with the wisdom of our elders (my contemporaries, actually), but it is working folk in the prime of life who have the largest stake in their community’s future.
A ratepayer with a job, a mortgage and a family has a much different view of what needs to be done to make things better in the long term, a much different understanding of the long-term challenges the community faces.
As for the rest of we bystanders, a ratepayer should not have to take a day off work to attend a council meeting, to bring his concerns to the folks he helped elect, or simply to watch and understand how his township is being governed.
I’ve been told that evening meetings would be an imposition on the public servants who must deliver reports to those council meetings, but they are, after all, servants of the public. There are plenty of ways they could be given time off as compensation for those evening shifts – one Friday a month, for example.
One of the problems of governments at all levels is that the status quo suits the incumbents or they wouldn’t be there. It may not be apparent to them when things need fixing.
Before campaigning for next fall’s election begins, Minden Hills incumbents should look for ways to open the doors to elected office to everybody.
Evening meetings would be a beginning.