race is on and candidate signs are sprouting around Oceanside like mushrooms after a good, hard rain.
Eye clutter? An expensive waste of money, time and effort? Hardly, although I know there are those who might try to make the point. They might have an arguable point on some levels of the electoral process, but not on this one.
Municipal politics is probably the purest form of democracy available to us. There are no political parties, no huge, secret blocks of corporate funding, no handlers, flacks or other hangers on. The candidates are not flitting in for a photo op before jetting off to the next destination. They’re right here, in the community, in the lineup at the grocery store, at the bank or just walking along the street.
During an election, you know the politicians have to at least pretend to listen to your concerns or ideas and give some accounting of themselves. That’s pretty much the only time when people — the 99 per cent of us who don’t own their own politicians anyway — have some real power.
An election is also one of the few times when people really think and talk about issues, whether they concern mundane details about things like watering restrictions or tax rates or more meaty topics.
It’s early days yet, but there have already been one or two ideas that piqued my interest.
The first was about development. Is the enormous number of people moving to Vancouver Island from other parts of the country causing the locals, those with deep roots in the Central Island, to be priced out of the housing market — to the point where they have to leave?
Island residents have not always had to be hugely successful in order to live on this rock, but that’s changing. Albertans, Ontarians, Saskatchewaners and others are swarming here, sending housing prices through the roof and threatening to turn the whole island into the sort of ticky-tacky, cookie-cutter housing development that blights once beautiful spots like Craig Bay and Qualicum Landing.
There are many other issues, too. How can we keep Kwalikum Secondary open? What is the right demographic mix for a healthy community and how can that be maintained, if we have it, or achieved if we don’t?
Yes, there’s the actual names you make your mark beside, but that’s just the final result of this wonderful process.
What really interests me is not the arrival, but the journey — and the ideas, hopes and dreams expressed by those who really want to make a difference for the community.
Of course, the candidates matter, too and I would like to take this opportunity to take my hat off to them.
I would say pretty much everyone involved put their names in because they want to do some good in the area where they live, so here’s to the candidates, the men and women who are willing to put themselves on the line, stand up in front of their peers and give their views about the important issues of the day.
You’re in the ring, the bell has rung, so come out thinking!
Neil Horner is the assistant editor of the Parksville Qualicum Beach News and a regular columnist