EDITORIAL: Interest in Kings' warden election

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Although the general public doesn’t get a direct vote, there’s no question a great deal of interest surrounds the election of a warden and deputy warden in the County of Kings.

There was standing room only in the council chambers Nov. 6 as the newly elected council was sworn in. Many members of the public in attendance got up to speak in the two-minute comment period at the end of the meeting. Many thanked the past council for its work and expressed an appreciation for those willing to serve as elected officials. The tone was very positive.

The first order of business Nov. 6 was for the councillors to decide who from among their ranks would lead them as warden for the next two years. Councillors once again selected Diana Brothers as warden and Mike Ennis was chosen deputy warden. We congratulate both on their respective elections.

Patricia Bishop was the other nominee for warden and Brian Hirtle the other for deputy warden. We applaud both for their willingness to take on the challenge and remind them there will be another opportunity in two years, if they are so inclined at that time.

Although we aren’t necessarily suggesting the warden system is broken, Bishop pointed out that lobbying and soliciting immediately begins among councillors following an election. This can lead to the establishment of cliques. We’ve seen these dynamics polarize council in the past and lead to our local elected body being labeled “dysfunctional,” although not all agree with this assessment.

There’s no question the citizens of Kings are among the most engaged in the province, if not beyond, when it comes to the municipal political arena. Many are very well informed and would probably appreciate a switch from the warden system to a mayoral system where the general public would get a direct vote.

An argument could be made an opportunity was missed when the former council decided not to pose this question in the form of a plebiscite as part of the Oct. 20 ballot. Although it has been said you can’t govern by plebiscite, history has shown a plebiscite question can greatly improve voter turnout. The provincial Sunday shopping plebiscite held in conjunction with the 2004 municipal election demonstrated this.

We hope the new council will somehow engage the public in discussion surrounding this point prior to November 2014, when the next warden election is scheduled. It’s more a question of how you want to be governed than it is a question of whether or not the current system is broken.

One consideration is that once a municipality moves away from the warden system, the province won’t allow a switch back.

If nothing else, a switch to the mayor system would increase accountability and transparency in Kings County municipal politics, a much-bandied goal of the past council.

It’s true there remains some uncertainly in the municipality with a Supreme Court challenge in the works relating to the disqualification of candidates in Districts 8 and 11. If the challenge is successful and election results in these districts are declared null and void, voters in affected communities could be headed back to the polls sooner than later.

Could this also potentially necessitate another election for warden and deputy warden around the council horseshoe if the landscape changes as a result? Perhaps another argument for having a mayor elected at large.

Organizations: Supreme Court

Geographic location: Kings

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