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OPINION: Time To Stop Neglecting Municipal By-Elections

Over the past month, several significant events occurred in Alberta that went largely unnoticed by the media and the general public.

Nine new councillors were elected or acclaimed to municipal councils across the province. While this news may not have made headlines, it is crucial to recognize the impact these individuals will have on their communities. The lack of coverage surrounding these elections highlights a concerning trend in our media landscape.

Out of the nine newly elected or acclaimed councillors, four went through the rigorous process of a by-election, demonstrating the engagement of the local population in the democratic process. Furthermore, five councillors were acclaimed, emphasizing the need to shed light on municipal issues even in uncontested races. Municipalities are an equal level of government that directly affects the lives of residents, making it all the more essential for journalists to cover these elections and the subsequent decisions made by newly elected officials.

Let us briefly acknowledge these newly elected or acclaimed councillors who deserve recognition for their dedication to public service. In the Village of Barons, Councillor-elect Clinton Bishop won a by-election on June 5th. In Bawlf, Alberta, Councillor William Staggs will bring fresh perspectives to the council. Tyler Hommy was elected in Beaverlodge on May 2nd. Ken Montie was acclaimed as Councillor in Berwyn, and Lawrence Habiak in Bondiss. In Clyde, Alexander Strembesky was acclaimed as Councillor, Eckville saw Collin Pacholek win a by-election, and in Falher, Roger Remillard was acclaimed. Finally, Joshua Bourelle was elected to Magrath Council on May 29th. These individuals have committed to serving their communities, and their efforts to step up and serve should not go unnoticed.

It is disheartening that these elections and acclamations took place over the past four weeks while all eyes were fixated on the provincial government. We must recognize that municipal issues are often the ones that impact residents the most. Neglecting to cover these local elections does a disservice to the citizens who rely on accurate information to make informed decisions about their communities.

Furthermore, Alberta alone is set to witness three more by-elections in the coming weeks and months. The Village of Cremona will hold its election on June 12th, and Penhold recently announced a future by-election for a council vacancy. Additionally, Claresholm will require a by-election due to Chelsae Petrovic winning her seat provincially in the Livingstone-MacLeod riding. These elections highlight the ongoing need for attention and coverage of municipal affairs.

Municipalities are struggling to be heard and have their issues addressed. Journalists have a crucial role to play in amplifying the concerns of these communities. They have the power to shed light on local matters and hold elected officials accountable. It is time for the media to prioritize municipal news and provide comprehensive coverage of by-elections and local government actions.

As we move forward, our newspaper pledges to focus more heavily on municipal issues, including the upcoming by-elections in Alberta and across Canada. It is imperative that we give these elections the attention they deserve, ensuring that residents are well-informed about the candidates and their platforms. By doing so, we can empower citizens to engage actively in the democratic process and foster a stronger sense of local democracy.

To quote Scott Pearce, the President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Municipalities are "the government of proximity", and if we don't address the issues happening locally, then the issues federally, provincially, and territorially won't matter at the end of the day.

Let us remember these words and work together to provide comprehensive coverage of municipal elections and the vital issues they address.

It is time to bridge the gap between media coverage and municipal elections. Let us champion the role of journalism in fostering informed citizenship and strengthening our local communities.

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