Opinion: Partisan politics at the municipal level could weaken the community

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The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) is concerned about the rise of partisan politics and partisan action in the municipal election campaign. We are concerned that this will diminish the community and community related organizations like leagues in the future, and weaken Edmonton as a whole.

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Building Edmonton has always brought the community to work together. As the city emerged from the Spanish flu pandemic and battled its many collapses, the community was there, often in the form of community leagues. Indeed, today there are 162 leagues that cover each of the city’s districts. These leagues and their volunteers have built more than $ 500 million in physical and social infrastructure in the city – from rinks, spray parks and halls to the formation of several amateur sports leagues. All of this has become even more vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given this and the fact that some of Edmonton’s toughest times could be lurking around the corner, thanks to the pandemic, the EFCL fears that the community we will need to be stronger than ever will be weakened instead. by partisanship.

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Parties operating in municipal politics can remove power from the community and transfer it to distant levels of government. When supporters endorse or comment on municipal election candidates, the power communities have to shape their future may also be diminished. For example, if a community league is aligned with a particular party or has supported a particular candidate, it potentially loses its credibility and ability to influence.

There are also other concerns. If the partisan trend continues, league boards and their volunteers who wish to advocate for amenities in their community might also be forced to worry about the partisan calculation of their advocacy. A league that works in the future with a party-linked city councilor, for example, may rightly fear that this might be seen as partisan or in opposition to a rival party at the provincial level. If that rival party were in power, a league working with its advisor would suddenly have to worry if this would endanger future grants or funding from the province for their community.

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People in our community want to have choice and to have influence over the things that affect them. They look to their community leagues to provide them with opportunities to influence local decisions. Community League members appreciate an environment where getting things done for the good of the community is not a matter of right or left, or of parties, but rather a moral imperative. Good governance also requires that the power over decisions be close to those it affects. Partisan politics in municipal politics threatens all of these fundamental points of contact with democracy.

Today and throughout this pandemic, the EFCL and the leagues are keepers of hope for our neighbors. But tomorrow, we will be community builders as we always have been. As long as the good people of our city can still work together to make a difference where they live, building a future for all Edmontonians, our community league way of life will endure. We believe that to secure this future, we must resist the division that party politics bring to the municipal arena.

The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues stands alongside our countless volunteers, partners and individuals who want to work together to build the city. We believe this is the only way to continue building an inclusive city that brings everyone together and leaves no one behind. There is no better time than a civic election to retain or restore power at the individual and community level.

Ryan E. Barber is president of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.

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Melissa C. Keyes