Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"We Will Turn the Five Year Plan into a Four Year One!"

According to the London Free Press, Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty's government is proposing extending the terms of office for elected municipal board and school board politicians from three years to four years. The legislation, if passed, will apply to officials elected in November's elections.

If this is not a case of politicians protecting politicians from citizens' opportunities for holding them accountable for an extra year, the prooffered rationales are pretty unconvincing. McGuinty, addressing a meeting of civic officials in Toronto:

"It's a matter of respect. We have fixed four-year terms at the provincial level and federal terms can run a maximum of five years. Why should you be any different?"
McGuinty's first interest ought to be the respect accorded to citizens, but his comparison of municipal officials with provincial or federal representatives is misleading. His government's legislation providing for fixed four-year terms in Ontario is a political artifice that supercedes only one aspect of the parliamentary tradition that otherwise governs the calling of elections at the provincial and federal levels — a tradition that does not govern municipal councils. McGuinty is pretending an equivalence exists that does not. When a politician invokes respect he merely appropriates a common sentiment and scatters it into the barren ground of passive assent. But he continues:
"It's also a matter of efficiency. Three years is too short. A four-year term is the ideal period of time for a council to forge an agenda, implement it and then seek the people's judgment.
I must differ — history suggests that the agendas of central planning authorities are suited to five-year plan increments. But for meeting agenda quotas, a four-year plan has at least got to be better than a three-year one! Nevertheless, this rationale supposes that the role of municipal councils is to have and implement agendas — what are these? In simpler times, the role of municipal councils was to judiciously administer those few functions suggested by the sources of their revenues — that is, basic services to property such as roads and sewers. One year alone is plenty of time to implement a budget ordinate to those proper responsibilities. Unfortunately, the purview of municipal responsibility is assumed by politicians — and by too many voters — to have expanded to grandiose capital projects and social and cultural engineering, line items that financially require multi-year commitments. A like-minded politician, McGuinty is sympathetic to agendas.

Needless to say, mayor Anne Marie DeCicco is of the same mind:
Politicians can work longer without the distraction of elections and newcomers will have more time to learn how to make their mark, she said.

… [Controller Bud] Polhill rejects the argument new council members face a learning curve, saying candidates have ample time to learn before the election.

"Don't ask taxpayers to pay for your apprenticeship," he said.
The work of responsible politicians is exceedingly simple and undemanding — which is why the position of councillor, for example, is part-time. With three-year terms, politicians are given far too much leeway as it is to reinvent their trusts. The politician who, like DeCicco, considers that judgment by the electorate is a distraction obviously confuses the matter of who exactly is employing her — when she begins to believe that she is working for herself in a position of authority, her term has been long enough already.

1 Comment:

Honey Pot said...

"Don't ask taxpayers to pay for your apprenticeship," -Butthole

What is he going on about? Butthole has been there since Jesus was a cowboy. Way past his best before date. He is about as dependable as dollar store underwear when it comes to making a postive impact on city government.