An Informed Citizenry is Essential for a Functioning Democracy

January 13, 2021
Council Column

For most people, last week’s riotous attack on the U.S. Congress was shocking; for informed political watchers, however, it wasn’t surprising.

While President Trump may have incited his followers to take back “their” Capitol, his presidency was enabled and supported by a political party system that has corrupted our democratic process for far too long. In fact, the very first President of the United States, George Washington, warned of this very outcome if citizens allowed themselves to be duped into putting party loyalty ahead of the common interests of their nation.

Canada is not immune to the kind of partisanship we see in the United States; too many provincial and federal elections are fought, and the outcomes determined, along party lines not on the basis of principle or who offers the most realistic appraisal of our current challenges and the most reasonable policies and programs to address them.

However, in Canada, there is still one place where this kind of partisanship has not taken hold and that is at the level of local government, with the exception of a few of our country’s largest municipalities. Increasingly, local government is also the place where more and more decisions are being made about all aspects of our lives, as both federal and provincial governments download more and more responsibilities to municipalities and Regional Districts. And, local governments are the most likely to take the lead role in achieving true reconciliation with First Nations Governments that also operate at a more localized, community-based level.

Local governments are also more easily accessible to the electorate and more readily held accountable by local ratepayers and voters -- which is healthy for our democracy.

However, local government is not immune to the other major contributing factor to last week’s populist attack on the U.S. Congress: disinformation spread through social media.

Democracy can only work when citizens actively inform themselves and seek facts and evidence rather than the opinions of others propagated as fact; especially when grossly uninformed opinions are amplified by unaccountable social media platforms.

Fortunately, the City of Quesnel is very proactive in updating its webpage and social media feeds, and all of the City’s major planning documents, strategies, and details about all major initiatives are readily available and accessible to the public. If you ever have a question about what Council or City staff are doing, we’re only a phone call or email away. You can also sign up for active notices on the City’s website.

One lesson to be learned from the erosion of American democracy is that we all need to become more informed and more engaged in our own democratic government. Please, reject the noise and nonsense of social media and choose instead to inform yourself about what’s actually going on in the City of Quesnel by actively engaging in all our communications platforms.

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Mayor Bob Simpson

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