Patience is a virtue, even in governance
|By Joseph Quigley - Staff Writer | January 18, 2019|
When it comes to politics, change can often be a frustratingly slow thing.
If we disagree with the people in power, we usually have to wait four years to change that. Issues of the day can take months or even years of lobbying to be heard and considered by elected officials.
But patience is a virtue and there needs to be time allowed for our new councils to make their ideas from the election campaign happen. Such is particularly true for Dysart et al.
At a Jan. 10 special meeting, the pace of change appeared to frustrate Coun. John Smith. He spoke against the bottom-up budgeting process from staff guided by the plans from the council of old. He frequently cited campaign promises about new planning and doing things differently.
Smith’s argument is not without some merit. With the first new mayor in decades and three new members of council, including a deputy mayor who unseated a long-time incumbent, it is fair to say Dysart et al voted for change. Smith cannot necessarily be faulted for wanting to start making that change happen by bringing new ideas and plans to the fore.
But making change happen at a municipal level takes time. Undoing things built over the course of years, or even decades, cannot happen in the span of months. The machinations of municipalities are slow, bogged down by the weeks and months it takes to plan, review and discuss—all necessary steps in democratic governance.
Given we are just over a month into the new terms of councils, citizens have yet to get impatient. We are still firmly in the honeymoon stage. But what played out at Dysart’s council table could be a glimpse of things to come. The pace of change seen a year or even two down the line might not be what people expect or were hoping for.
Reasonable patience is necessary. The checks and balances embedded in our governance are important to the spirit of democracy, even if they slow things down. The decisions of the past, done with community input, should not necessarily be upended without due process. The public must allow new councils to go through that.
Public input is important as change is driven, and that also takes time to gather. Politicians can also do well to keep in mind that not everyone dislikes the status quo. Not everyone would have voted for change and those people are constituents who should be heard too.
However, it is good that councillors are mindful of what they presented on the campaign trail and do work towards creating any change they promised. Time in an elected seat can so easily breed complacency. Questioning processes and decisions to ensure they are up-to-snuff is something we need to see from councillors, from their first month of term to their last.
There is no easy road ahead for Dysart and other local councils. There has been demand for consideration of big-picture ideas, like housing developments, a new pool or recreational facility and amalgamation. Whether the item is big or small, the public should be willing to wait an appropriate amount of time for councillors to get a little more comfortable in their seats.
Just as long as they do not get too comfortable.