Are you satisfied with our governments’ operational procedures and administrative practices for seeking our opinions and addressing our concerns?

It is vital that we are vigilant of the functioning of our cherished democratic process. We all will agree that it is not a perfect world, thus we must be consistent with our efforts to enable our communities, province and country to give us the governmental representation that we require and the services that we need.

Voters’ participation in all of our elections is abysmal. In Canada’s 2021 federal election, the voter turnout was a mere 62.09 per cent (Elections Canada) with Nova Scotia’s electorate participating in the 2021 election at an embarrassing 55.67 per cent (Elections Nova Scotia).

Nova Scotia’s municipal elections voter turnouts for its 49 municipalities have on average been much lower. In the municipal elections of 2020, the Town of Truro’s participation count was 39.5 per cent.

I believe the causes for the non-participation of voters are multiple and need to be addressed. We live in an electoral world that requires the sharing of accurate information (not misinformation) and voting processes reflect that reality. Whether it is the actual electoral process or the mechanics via which we can participate, all governments must provide for transparent and accurate information to be presented; for opinions to be shared and for concerns to be addressed.

The next Canadian federal election will be on or before Oct. 20, 2025. The next Nova Scotia general election will be held on or before July 15, 2025. Nova Scotia’s next municipal elections will be on Oct. 19, 2024. All levels of government must start immediately to prepare the electorate to be ready to exercise their democratic rights. Yes there will be expenses involved to maintain and develop ongoing effective electoral procedures, but when we envision the potential alternatives, we will get what we pay for.

I sought examples of good governance practices resulting in decisions being made based on stakeholders’ and taxpayers’ input. Yes, there are instances at all levels of governance where we would be pleased and also examples of situations where we would be unhappy. I am going outside of my community to reference two that deserve recognition. The two that I am referencing are instances where there have been, or are, ongoing sincere efforts to enable decisions to be made with as much stakeholders’ input as possible.

Being a non-hunter, and originally from Bible Hill, I chose the controversial Truro Managed Urban Deer Hunt plebiscite that was held as a component of their municipal election on Oct. 17, 2020. I was pleased with the transparency and sincere efforts to receive electors’ input so as to guide the decision making for this emotional subject. As it turned out, the majority of those who voted were in support of the hunt.

Regardless of my personal feelings for that plebiscite’s outcome, Truro provided much information to those who were interested and also enabled electors to participate so as to determine the outcome. My disappointment lies with Truro’s eligible voters’ non-participation forgoing their rights to cast their opinions.

My other example of good governing deals with the Town of Antigonish and County of Antigonish’s combined efforts to explore consolidation. As was asked in ad appearing in regional newspapers: “Will residents, businesses and the overall community be better served if the town and county became one? You tell us!” The ad then goes on to give people four options to address this historical question: attend public sessions being held thorough the town and county; visit the information website; call a toll-free number to leave voice mail for a staff who will follow up with you; or email your questions and comments to a designated location.

I applaud that the consolidation information sessions are staggered at various times throughout the workday and also during evenings thereby giving many more citizens the options to attend. The only negative that I would toss into the procedure is that there were no indicated weekend opportunities for the public to attend question and answer sessions which would have recognized employment or family issues that are a reality with some.

My conclusion is credited to Chef Mark Gabrieau, owner-operator of Antigonish’s Gabrieau’s Bistro regarding another subject being address by the Town of Antigonish as it seeks input regarding updates to its sidewalk café bylaw.

Regardless of the levels of governments, Gabrieau’s words for good governance were accurate as he spoke in favour of updates: “We are all in this together. We don’t need to be town against business, business against town and we (have) to all work together. I think they realize that more now than ever before.” Gabrieau’s perceptive words are applicable to all governments and communities (urban or rural).

Democracy dictates that governments and their organizations must always strive to serve the multiple needs of their entire populations.

Ray Bates

Guysborough (Sedabooktook)