“To make a democracy work, we must be a nation of participants not simply observers.” -Louis L’Amour
An exercise in democracy is approaching quickly – the Manitoba municipal elections are Oct. 24 and would-be civic leaders are being urged to participate.
In Virden, that call to duty is especially urgent since the top job will soon be vacant.
Mayor Jeff McConnell announced in the spring that he won’t run again after doing a 20-year stint on council, the last eight of them as mayor.
Virden also needs an election so voters can truly hold their elected officials to account. During the last municipal election cycle in 2014, there was no election in Virden due to a lack of candidates.
Six candidates ran for councillor and one for mayor, all were acclaimed. There was no campaigning, no door knocking, no platforms and no promises. And no ballot.
In this year’s campaign so far (to Aug. 29) four people have registered to run for councillor, none for mayor.
Info event: Thursday evening
To encourage interested citizens to run, the Town is hosting a “Council Information Session” this Thursday evening, Aug. 30, 7-9 pm in council chambers.
Visitors will be able to chat with the mayor, councillors and administration staff in the very room where council meetings are held.
They’ll then have another two and a half weeks to decide if they want to run for mayor or councillor before the Sept. 18 deadline.
How to run
To run, you have to be a Canadian citizen, be at least 18, and a resident or property owner in Virden for at least six months before the election.
- Register with the Senior Elections Official (CAO Rhonda Stewart in this case) at the town office.
- Get 25 eligible voters to sign your nomination paper.
- Create a campaign bank account if you plan to accept contributions.
- Start campaigning and remember to keep a record of contributions and expenses.
What to expect
Here’s what a municipal councillor or mayor can expect:
- To serve a four-year term.
- To attend regular council meetings (usually twice a month) plus any committee meetings and special functions.
- To help develop policies and programs to enhance the quality of life in Virden.
- To be compensated for your time and expenses.
The mayor is paid $1,125 a month but that’s set to increase to $1,400 in the new year.
The deputy mayor’s current pay of $950 a month will rise to $1,200.
A councillors’ pay, now $875, will go up to $1,000 a month on Jan. 1, 2019.
Council members are also compensated for expenses while on out-of-town council business.
Shortly after the election, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) will hold its annual convention in Winnipeg, and the agenda includes training sessions to help newly-elected councillors learn the job.
Being on council offers those elected valuable opportunities to network, learn and travel as they attend seminars and meetings.
It also provides them with the chance to make a difference in their own community – concrete differences that they, their families and friends can experience firsthand.
Local politics gives individuals a platform to express their concerns and present their ideas for change.
Mayor McConnell, looking back on his years in office, told the Empire-Advance, “What council has, as a group, is a great set of tools available at their disposal to create a vibrant and dynamic community that can move forward. They have the ability to set the policies and the goals.”