Aug. 19 is nomination day in Haliburton County. Candidates for the Oct. 24 election must file their paperwork by 2 p.m. that day. In other words, there are just 12 business days left to get on the ballot.
Checking the unofficial list of candidates Aug. 1, there are still some wards in which no one has put their name forward. Many others have only one nominee, which opens the door to multiple acclamations.
That does not bode well for local democracy.
To date, the most robust township is Minden Hills. Eight people have so far filed for seven seats. That being said, there is still no candidate for ward three. Further, if the election were to be held today, Bob Carter would be acclaimed as mayor and Lisa Schell as deputy mayor. Pam Sayne would get a free ride in ward two. The only races are for councillor-at-large with Tammy McKelvey and Trevor Chaulk having filed. Ward one will also be contested, with Jennifer Hughey, Ivan Ingram and Shirley Johannessen all vying for two seats.
Elsewhere, the only other contested seat is in Algonquin Highlands, where Liz Danielsen has been joined by Mike Lang in trying to win Carol Moffatt’s former seat. Incumbents Julia Shortreed, in ward one, Lisa Barry, in ward two, and Jennifer Dailloux, in ward three, remain uncontested with another ward two candidate still needed.
Dysart is also one candidate shy, with no one so far running for ward five. Otherwise, it remains an uncontested race with Murray Fearrey running for mayor, Walt McKechnie for deputy mayor, Rob McCaig for ward one, Daniel Roberts for ward two, Tammy Donaldson for ward three and Rod Dobson for ward four.
Highlands East is struggling to field candidates. So far, only mayor Dave Burton, deputy mayor Cec Ryall and Ruth Strong in ward four have filed.
Perhaps some prospective candidates want to see the summer out before putting their names forward and beginning to campaign.
However, we would argue there are many other reasons that people do not want to run. One is the pay. While levels of pay vary widely across the province, the majority of councillors and heads of council in Ontario are paid less than $40,000 per year.
During and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, there also seems to be a new, unfiltered anger, that has seen unprecedented social media attacks on councillors and the work they are doing.
Factor in that some prospective candidates simply could not meet during the day due to other work commitments and it becomes largely a playing field for the retired and semi-retired.
This dearth of candidates comes at a critical time in Haliburton County, when visionary leaders are needed to navigate our changing times. The Highlands require people who can manage our population growth and a myriad of issues, from a lack of affordable housing, to a shortage of workers, and environmental worries sparking shoreline preservation and short-term rental regulation talks.
We know there are more good people out there who love our communities and have a lot to offer.
And so, we urge anyone sitting on the fence to get off of it. Our future depends on it.