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OPINION: Embracing the Triumphs

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Over the last few months, I've embarked on a journey across the western provinces of Canada, travelling through the heartlands of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.


Over cups of coffee and in the company of mayors, reeves, councillors, and municipal administration I've delved into the tapestry of challenges woven within the fabric of our municipalities.


However, amidst my inquiries of the challenges individual municipalities face, one question often triggers an unexpected reaction: "What are the things you are proud of when it comes to your community?" The initial responses range from surprise to genuine delight, with many admitting that they've rarely been - or for some have never been - asked such a question before.


Undeniably, our municipalities face a myriad of challenges, from the perpetual need for infrastructure funding to grappling with healthcare disparities at a local level. Issues like crime, environmental degradation, and the burdens of downloading from higher levels of government loom large on the horizon. It's easy to fall into the trap of focusing solely on these adversities, perpetuating the "If It Bleeds, It Leads" narrative that dominates our media landscape.


Indeed, even within the realm of social media and professional discourse, discussions tend to gravitate toward the negative aspects of municipal governance. Consultants tout their ability to swoop in and fix what's broken, feeding into the notion that only the problems garner attention. But perhaps it's time for a paradigm shift, a departure from the relentless spotlight on what's wrong towards a celebration of what's right.


Our municipalities boast remarkable accomplishments, often overshadowed by the allure of sensationalism. Yet, there exists a tapestry of success stories waiting to be unveiled. It's not just about the projects nominated for awards; it's about the everyday initiatives that showcase the ingenuity and resilience of our communities.


One common theme that emerges is the commendable level of resident interaction within our municipalities. Unlike the divisive landscape of partisan politics, municipal leaders operate under the banner of Team Community. They are champions of inclusivity, bridging gaps and fostering dialogue across diverse segments of society. While disagreements may arise, there remains a fundamental respect and understanding that transcends political affiliations.


Municipal leaders commitment to serving the greater good is not fuelled by fame, glory, or - shockingly - monetary gain. Instead, it's rooted in a genuine belief in the potential of their communities and a steadfast dedication to nurturing that potential.


It's a scene familiar to many: the mayor, reeve, or councillor crossing paths with a resident at the corner store or cheering on their kids at a local sports game. In these moments, beyond the confines of formal municipal office, connections are forged, and dialogues ensue.


This intimate familiarity breeds a culture of respectful discourse—a recognition that differing opinions are not barriers but rather opportunities for constructive engagement. Municipal leaders understand that they cannot please everyone, but they embrace this reality with unwavering resolve.


As I've often remarked in the past, municipal governance operates on a principle of shared responsibility. While elected officials strive to go 90 percent in serving their communities, residents must contribute their 10 percent—to stay informed, engage in dialogue, and respectfully offer criticism when things don't go right.


It's a symbiotic relationship wherein both parties play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of their community. It brings to mind a scene from the 2005 film "Hitch," featuring Will Smith and Kevin James. In the movie, Smith's character, while advising James on the art of romance, shares a nugget of wisdom: "See, the secret to a kiss is to go 90 percent of the way, and then hold."


Now, I'm not equating municipal governance to a kiss—although, in a way, I guess I am. What I'm advocating for is a shift in focus for municipalities—to go 90 percent of the way in highlighting the positive news stories. It's about recognizing that residents may be eager to hear about the successes and innovations happening in their communities, not just the challenges.


Take, for example, my recent conversation with the Mayor of Bon Accord. We discussed the remarkable achievement of their solar farm, which has significantly reduced the costs of powering community facilities since its inception. This is a story worth telling—a testament to the municipality's commitment to innovation and fiscal responsibility. In fact, the Town of Bon Accord has saved its residents close to half a million dollars through this initiative.


Yet, you won't find this headline gracing the cover of the local newspaper or dominating social media feeds. Why? Because positive stories like these often don't generate the same level of interest or revenue as sensationalized news. However, the real question is whether residents of Bon Accord are aware of these achievements. I intend to find out firsthand when I visit the community next week and engage with residents directly.


In my humble opinion, municipal leaders excel in their mandate to connect with residents.


They navigate the complexities of governance with grace and humility, recognizing that their actions resonate far beyond the confines of the municipal hall. Their dedication to fostering open, transparent communication is commendable, laying the foundation for a thriving democratic society.


Ultimately, the success of our municipalities hinges not solely on the actions of elected officials but on the collective efforts of residents to actively engage in the civic process. By embracing this shared responsibility, we pave the way for a future characterized by collaboration, understanding, and progress.


So, let us heed a new mantra: "If you get it right, yell it from the rooftop!" Let's amplify the voices of our municipalities, celebrating their triumphs and fostering a culture of positivity and pride.


For in the mosaic of challenges and accomplishments lies the true essence of our Western Canadian municipalities—a testament to the resilience, innovation, and unwavering spirit of our communities.

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