So who do we vote for on Oct. 25?

By MPP Toby Barrett

Ideas, information and candidates always provide an interesting mix before any election – and I trust the lead up to the Oct. 25 municipal vote will be no exception.

It’s not as if we don’t have anything to talk about!

Across Norfolk and Haldimand we have been challenged by some tough economic and social issues, not of our own making, – issues that took root well before the recession.

Now, more than ever, we need thoughtful, civil debate and a healthy discussion of policies, proposals and action steps to get us moving. This requires open minds and broad participation by us all.

I’m not running municipally but I did knock on about 1,500 doors this spring and summer. We covered 20 hamlets across our two counties from Cultus and Kelvin to Springvale and Canfield. I also sent out a survey brochure to every household in the riding.

Consistently, people report back to me their number one concern is the employment situation. People worry about their future and their children’s future. They worry about how they will pay the bills.

People also make it clear that what they don’t want to see are tax increases, reckless government spending, runaway deficits and debt, and stimulus spending on shovel-ready projects with no evidence of job creation.

And in Haldimand, people see no end in sight for the ongoing land dispute.

Job creation, an improved business and agri-business climate, maintenance of the rule of law, leaner government and a first-class education system all require informed debate. Candidates leading the debate must show they can manage – they must show they can plan, organize, evaluate and show leadership.

The accumulation of new and revised policies must lead to a sustainable plan and specific courses of action. You don’t get there if you don’t know where you’re going.

And that’s where we come in – by asking questions, writing letters to the editor and getting involved.

As the voting public, we must all pay attention, continue to learn about the issues and the candidates, offer opinions and suggestions and participate in the process. Between now and Oct. 25 we will be exposed to local radio commentary, local newspaper coverage and letters to the editor, coffee shop chatter and a plethora of all-candidates nights. Read, listen, attend and put in your two cents worth.

We can also urge county and school board candidates to focus on the issues, offer new approaches and innovative solutions to the problems and the opportunities we face. We need to elect leaders who will work together to create answers and action. Leaders who are not afraid to reach across the table and who are not afraid to get the community involved.

We need those who seek office as mayors, councillors and school board representatives to renew our confidence in government and to renew and maintain our respect for the political system.

So, as the campaigns roll out, let’s have constructive civil debate and dialogue about the future. Those running are working hard – we should make a point of attending all-candidates nights to hear their pitch.

And when our leaders take office, let’s continue the dialogue, and continue to share ideas and information. Let’s see collaborative strategies that point to progress and economic revitalization.