So a petition has been submitted seeking a plebiscite on the town’s bylaw to borrow $2.8 million.
Now it is in the hands of the town’s chief administrative officer to determine if the petition is valid. There are many ways that names, or petitioners as they are referred to in the Municipal Government Act, can be excluded. If there is no signature, witness of signing, first and last name, or valid address they can be excluded. If they live outside Claresholm, as in the Municipal District of Willow Creek, Granum, Stavely or another municipality, they can be excluded.
If the petition is ruled sufficient, town council then has 90 days to take one of two steps: they can withdraw the borrowing bylaw altogether, or submit it to a vote.
Having a plebiscite on borrowing $2.8 million is not a bad thing, it really isn’t.
Yes, there is the expense of having the actual plebiscite, as well the danger voter turnout could be low the further we get into summer.
However, a plebiscite is the fairest, most objective way to see what the ratepayers of this community want.
It is obvious that, if 10 per cent of the total electors in town, signed a petition that proves sufficient, there is an appetite for a vote.
We don’t how those people came to sign that petition because everyone has a different reason or rationale. Hopefully, there was no misdirection, misinformation, or manipulation to get people to sign. Hopefully, people signed with the best, most accurate information.
Having said that, all that goes out the window with a plebiscite with a clear question.
It becomes a yes or no answer. Those elements of our community who purport to speak for the people, will see if they actually do. If the vote goes in favour of borrowing $2.8 million, council has an unquestionable, undeniable mandate to do so. A vote of the people cannot be overturned by some manipulation of the process. The same holds true if the vote goes against borrowing $2.8 million, again the message is clear.
One thing we would suggest, should the petition be deemed sufficient and the voters do go to the polls, is the town can use this as an opportunity canvas the public about other issues.
That is, the borrowing bylaw obviously would be the only question on a ballot. Why not though, have a second ballot, seeking the public’s input on a range of issues. The town is spending the money for a plebiscite, so why not take maximum advantage of the opportunity and ask about the people’s priorities.
That is still days and weeks away, and is only possible if there is a plebiscite.
Until then, we all have to wait. ~RSV