Letter to the editor 2, Sept. 8, 2016

Dear Editor,

According to last week’s edition of Your Local Journal, there are six candidates running for the District 4 council seat in St. Lazare’s by-election September 25. In the last election, the recently retired councillor for District 4 won the seat by acclamation because nobody else ran against him. Now, we have six candidates running... Why so many?

I live in District 1 and my councillor lives in District 2. This councillor was a “parachute candidate” running on a “localized pet project” namely the acquisition of Dune Lake in Saddlebrook. Surely it would be more democratic and representative for the citizens of St. Lazare if it were a town requirement that all candidates who wish to represent a specific district should be a resident of that district.

Of the six candidates running for District 4, most, if not all, live in District 4, which is the way it should be. I respect anyone who runs for councillor for the right reasons, but we must get those who know what is happening in the town, especially at this critical time when so much taxpayer money is being spent, and the town debt is increasing significantly.

As far as I can determine, three or four of these candidates have never attended a single recent council meeting, let alone every council meeting, so how can they be aware of the ongoing files, projects, problems, or plans the town has? Are they running for one-year duration as councillor, to gain experience at taxpayers’ cost or can they really do something to help citizens of St. Lazare?

Having all the candidates living in the district is truly “representative” for the residents of District 4 and I, and many others, would much prefer the councillor representing a district to actually live there. We experienced a number of “parachute” candidates during the last election, where three of the councillors did not, and still do not, live in the areas they represent. This allowed the sort of situation where in the last election, three councillors and the mayor, all residents of Saddlebrook, were living in close proximity to Dune Lake.

The results are history, but they were able to push through the purchase of Dune lake and the land exchange even though there was a 900 signature opposition to the purchase/exchange, because ‘it was in their collective backyard.’

If it were mandatory that all councillors had to be residents in the district they represent, it would eliminate the possibility of the mayor or town council pushing through any of these types of ‘localized pet projects’ in the future.

However, it would be a waste of time, asking the present mayor and council to pass a bylaw which made it mandatory for councillors to reside in the districts they represent as it would require half of the councillors voting themselves out of a job. That seems unlikely to happen, even if it is for the sake of improving democracy and better representation for residents of St. Lazare.

One can only hope that concerned citizens will push for this sort of by-law and all new councillors will think more about local representation, by making it mandatory that all councillors must live in the District they represent.

Alan Nicol

St. Lazare