Politicians are elected by the people for the people.

Their primary purpose is to improve the quality of society and public welfare while maintaining a positive image, staying informed about issues, demonstrate value for taxpayer’s dollars, and prepare to take action when needed.

In a two-tiered system of government, regional representation must also carefully balance local and regional needs. This requires a unique skill set including:

  • Interpersonal skills in building positive relationships in and among the community;
  • Collaboration skills when working with fellow regional councilors, town councilors and the general public;
  • Cooperation skills in working with their local town council to advance community priorities;
  • Communication skills to actively listen to their electorate and keep informed about important issues;
  • Leadership in knowing the difference between what is right and wrong for the community and the ability to act on these issues;
  • Accountability and integrity in service.

Good politicians must be open and available to speak with their electorate, listen to their concerns and be prepared to take a position/act. In business, this concept is known as customer service and quite frankly this concept needs to be more important to our public institutions. Somewhere along the line it’s been lost.

I say this because there has been a noticeable shift in attitude on behalf of our local governments. There’s a real disconnect between the organizations that represent us and the public’s voice.  As such, it is important for our elected officials to be receptive to our local newspapers, who have the ability and responsibility to communicate on matters that are most important to our communities. Dismissing our local newspapers is consistent with dismissing the community.

This is certainly true at the Region, where some individuals have ignored the St. Catharines Standard, dismissed it as the “tabloid press” or “fake news.” It is disheartening to see the scope and scale of the communication breakdown that is currently taking place.

This is also true at the Town of Pelham where copies of the Voice were tossed in the trash and communication cut off for weeks. We don’t know if they were simply unhappy with a particular story, or they are trying to systematically marginalize their voice, and hence ours, from being heard.

Our regional and municipal governments are here to serve their residents.  Your voice is important. When government starts to control the dialogue by limiting or discounting the role of the local press, it only hurts the community. It’s simply wrong.

Local papers are a reflection of local matters, both societal and human. Their stories should be both important and relevant to our political representatives. And if customer service is something they care about, perhaps an effort should be made to rebuild the relationship, not dismiss it. Problems don’t go away by ignoring them. They need attention and effort to fix. It’s hard work; but that’s what you signed up for. Ignoring the issue does not make it go away.

In similar sentiment to what was said by Gandhi, the public is not dependent on politicians, they are dependent on us. We are not an interruption of their work, we are the purpose of it. They are not doing us a favour by serving us, we are doing them a favour by allowing them the opportunity. Political representation is not an entitlement, it is a privilege.

I urge you to carefully contemplate your choices this election. Choose candidates who are dedicated to representing you with a cooperative and collaborative leadership style. Choose candidates who are committed to offering public service as a form of customer service. Choose candidates who are passionate about our community. As a result, our communities will flourish and thrive.