BY: JAMES TAKEO, Welland, Ontario.
With the municipal elections approaching, and with the controversy surrounding the current regional government, Niagara voters will be taking a special interest in political candidates this time around.
Changes are predictably coming, and much of that change will be traced to the reactions of voters regarding the antics of some local political figures — most notably Andy Petrowski.
I'm not going to elaborate on every tale of his term in office (the pornographic attachment to an email, the inappropriate comments and tweets, the general disregard for common courtesy and respect) and the fiascos that ensued, as these incidences have already been written about in local, provincial and national media.
For those who aren’t familiar, a quick Google search of “Andy Petrowski” will produce results that elaborate on his behaviour.
More recently, however, the Region made the expenses of regional councillors public, and we found Petrowski accrued thousands of dollars in roaming charges for an iPad — the same one used to send the infamous porn email.
Who foots the bill for that? Ultimately, the voters of Niagara.
Petrowski’s actions have been reprimanded before, with half-hearted attempts at suspensions of duty, only for the councillor to respond with empty apologies.
A true reprimand would have come in the form of not being re-elected, but Petrowski has declined to run again — probably the smartest and most responsible thing he's done while in office.
I'm not saying that Petrowski is necessarily indicative of Niagara’s governance, or of its elected officials’ behaviours, but it is enough to show the ugly side of local politics.
Voters don't want juvenile antics, mudslinging, and abuse of position. They certainly don't want a bad image being presented of their area — which has happened.
What do Niagarans want in the upcoming election?
I feel the voters will be looking for somebody who can offer a bit more than what we’ve gotten from our current elected officials. Experience, insight, and recognizability are assets on a campaign trail and in office, but I predict voters will want more.
Each election we hear talk from candidates about transparency, accountability and change — these things are expected to occur no matter who ends up in office anyhow.
But what will voters be seeking in the next election from a candidate?
Responsibility, respect, and reliability.
No more should Niagarans feel disassociated from their local governance. Our elected officials are not above us, they are the same as us, and should act and be treated accordingly.
If any of us acted in the same manner as some local officials have in some cases, we would likely lose our jobs or our friends.
This feeling of mistrust in local office needs to end, and can, through the efforts and behaviours of the new local leaders who take the helm in Niagara — at both tiers of governance.
There are many issues facing Niagara as a whole, different for each individual municipality, and as we look ahead a few months, many will be out pounding the pavement and on social media, explaining how they are best suited for the jobs they seek.
Many of them will truly have experience and insight worth sharing, for the greater good of the community.
As Niagara changes in the future, let us be sure we are represented by those that are tolerant, respectful, and compassionate of the needs of people.
Let Petrowski be a cautionary tale of what politics in Niagara shouldn't be.