July 17th, 2018

Business Beat: Your vote matters

By Medicine Hat News on October 4, 2017.

With election signs popping up all around us, it comes as no surprise that our next priority within our communities is our municipal elections. With that comes the importance of taking the time to make an informed vote in order to select our next municipal leaders.

Elections can be challenging and frustrating for an electorate, as decisions and positions can become subjective and emotionally charged, rather than being rooted in objectivity and driven by fact. Still others become apathetic to the whole political process because they are disenfranchised or perhaps they simply don’t care and feel their vote won’t make a difference. However, we have the given right to vote and to select those that represent us, so making an informed vote is critically important to the effective leadership of our municipalities, province and country.

Each of us has a responsibility within the election process to select representatives who will best represent our communities in order to direct growth, sustainability and ensure fiscal responsibility. Our government leaders are critically important to our communities, as it is through the authority of government that the distribution of power and resources are assessed and decided. Through the election process, our political leaders are granted the power to make decisions that can have immense impact on the well-being of the communities and regions they serve.

For this reason, government leadership requires focus on the long-term good of the people it serves, above any personal agendas and short-term quick “wins.” Good governance requires solid leadership, vision, integrity and the ability to become informed and knowledgeable about a number of issues and situations in order to make decisions that will ultimately be in the best interest of the constituency being served. These leaders must have the ability to stand up for what is right, even if it means losing out to what may be deemed as “popular” at the time.

It is often said that those who make good political leaders are often those who least want the position in the first place. This is because they are not seeking power or status, but because others value their judgement, contributions and ideas and they are being encouraged by others to step forward. These types of individuals are driven by the desire to inspire the best choices and decisions and want to be part of that process so they can contribute to the positive change and sustainability of their community or region.

Good leaders are those who communicate well, have solid inter-personal skills and are capable of dealing with a broad range of people with diverse needs and backgrounds. Furthermore, effective leaders are those that seek to achieve the greatest good for the entire constituency they serve, rather than the interests of a select few and aren’t driven by a limited focus of political or partisan values.

They must be able to put service above self and be of strong character and conscience. They need to be willing to hear and respond to the needs of their constituents and represent faithfully and truthfully with fact, knowledge and informed judgement. They must have the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said, rather than skirt the issues that are important. They need to have the ability to make the difficult decisions and be able to endure, stand up for and support those decisions through the criticism they may receive as a result. Elected leaders must have tough enough skin to deal with the fall out that sometimes comes as a result of the decision they make, but also be accountable for their decisions by admitting when they may be wrong.

A great leader should inspire and motivate in order to bring together cooperation and community building and while negotiation and coercion is sometimes needed, persuasion, rooted in fact and common sense, is typically the best means of action.

As a non-partisan organization we do not lend our support to the election of any candidate for public office; however we take a role in helping to encourage our community to make an informed vote. We host election forums to ask the questions important to our membership and we ensure that we provide resources for our community to find information about election processes. We encourage you to visit our website at http://www.medicinehatchamber.com/pages/municipal-election1, attend our election forums this week from 7-9 p.m. at the Medicine Hat College Theatre and make an informed vote on Oct. 16. Why? Because your vote matters.

Lisa Kowalchuk is the executive director of the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce. For more information on this column or the Chamber, contact 403-527-5214.

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