Editorial: Are you ready to choose?

It’s been a ho hum election campaign in this neck of the woods, the riding of Riding Mountain. With the vote just days away, the candidates have (as of this writing) kept a low profile when it comes to public appearances and events, at least in Virden.

While we in the media are inundated by daily news releases from party leaders, particularly the Big Three, our local candidates are taking a subtler approach with lawn signs, flyers and a bit of advertising.

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Where’s all the hand shaking and door knocking? Where are the rallies, stump speeches and impassioned pleas from the podium?

The residents of Riding Mountain (formerly Arthur-Virden) care about provincial issues because they have such a direct impact on how we, in rural Manitoba, live and prosper… or fail to. So we want to hear from our local candidates, all of them.

Without that engagement, the inevitable result on Sept. 10 will be low voter turnout and acceptance of the status quo. So let’s review some of the local issues that our candidates should be talking about:

It’s hard to think of an issue that irritates and inconveniences more Virden area residents than our broken bridge. Another construction season has gone by and still no word on the future of the much-missed span on PTH 257 near Virden.

Two of the four Riding Mountain candidates mentioned the bridge in the profiles they submitted to the Empire-Advance last week but didn’t say what they’d do about it.

And there is still no indication why the province has withheld funding for the rebuild when Ottawa has committed to its share, nor what a newly-minted MLA could do about it when the previous one had so little success (or maybe didn’t shake the piggy bank hard enough.)

And that leads us to crumbling infrastructure.

Wherever you live, work or trade in small town Manitoba, the signs of decay are all around you… crumbling streets, curbs, sidewalks and unkempt public spaces.

And that’s only the stuff you see above ground.

Throw in Virden’s endless struggle with arsenic in the drinking water and the very real possibility of lead in older water mains, it’s no wonder the candidates aren’t talking about aging infrastructure – the cost to fix it all would be astronomical. But what’s the alternative?

The Fort La Bosse School Division has been warning us for over a year about dire consequences if school boards outside of Winnipeg lose their ability to fund education with local property taxes. It’s been done already in other provinces and the trend is aiming right at Manitoba.

But trustees say it will limit their ability to customize programs for local needs and could spell the end of school divisions in Manitoba.

So, what are the burning issues for southwestern Manitoba, in your view? The election is days away but there’s still time to seek out the candidates and ask some questions.

Who knows? It could add some spark to an otherwise ho-hum campaign.

© Virden Empire-Advance

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