Hay River councillor on why he's stepping away, and why so few people are running for office

Hay River councillor on why he's stepping away, and why so few people are running for office

Municipal elections are taking place in several communities across the N.W.T. on Oct. 15, but a few familiar faces will be missing from the race for council in Hay River.

Current town councillor Kandis Jameson was acclaimed as mayor after no other candidates stepped up to the plate. Now, there are just nine people running for eight councillor positions.

Vince McKay, who serves on council now, isn't one of them.

The CBC's Loren McGinnis spoke with McKay earlier this week to talk about why fewer people are throwing their names in the hat.

The following interview has been edited and condensed.

Q: Why did you decide not to run again?

You get a little voice in your head that just kind of tells you it's time. There's a lot of things that go on where you sit there and go: "Maybe there's a different vision that people have with this." You kind of feel that you're just not, I don't know if you want to say contributing, but it feels like it's not going in the direction that you thought it would be.

Q: What was your reaction when you heard that the mayor was being acclaimed, and council came pretty close to that as well?

Overall, it's a little sad, I guess. I'm happy that Coun. [Kandis] Jameson is in the spot. It's definitely good to have the knowledge and the experience there. But in this day and age, no matter where you are, there should be a lot of people running for positions like this. You hear more [on] social media and stuff like that about issues than you do from the people who actually run for council or mayor.

Q: I guess you would have started pre-social media and you've ended your fourth term where social media and politics have quite an intersection.

It's actually pretty funny. When I first started my Facebook account, Facebook was kind of new. That was probably close to seven or eight years ago.

Q: Do you have a sense of why more people aren't running?

Honestly, I think social media has really taken an effect on the involvement. A lot of people, if you wanted to be involved, you needed to be there. But I see now, it's kind of whatever comments on social media get the most [reaction], it's kind of the direction you see. We're small enough towns that we can talk to people and get the feel of what the residents are thinking and feeling, and you definitely see that on social media.

Sometimes, just the overall tension from the residents, and that type of stuff, it definitely takes a toll on the individual.

Q: How did you cope with the sort of toll you're talking about? The feeling that you're under the microscope?

I often say that politics is probably the only place where bullying and harassment are still allowed in the workplace [laughs]. You kind of expect it, to a certain degree. In general, you really need to have big shoulders.

People are realizing that you have to make a decision. And it may not always be the best decision, but at the end of the day that's the way it goes. And whether people like it or not, that's the majority of council that's made that decision. And you need to be able to understand that people are frustrated with the decision and not you personally, probably 90 per cent of the time.

Q: Council had to sort through some big issues during the last term. I'm thinking specifically of the arena. Do you think that anything that happened this last term may have dissuade people from running?

I don't think so. The arena's been a big issue, and it was always going to be a big issue. The arena's been on council's radar since I've been on council. It came down to making a tough decision. And people say: "Well, we built it for the Arctic Winter Games." That's not true. The timing was there, the funding was there, the choice was, do we get it done before the Arctic Winter Games, or do we start it after the Arctic Winter Games?

You're always going to have people questioning that, but you know what? That's the way it goes.

Q: What are the big issues facing Hay River?

The biggest issue, I think, that's still on the table is the power franchise. I think whatever the outcome, there's definitely a lot of work to get there. I also think one thing people don't realize is there's a lot of infrastructure underground that has been in the ground for years. That needs to be worked on.

People don't like seeing that. People like seeing arenas, because they see their money being used. But a lot of money has to go underground, too.

Q: Would you ever run again? Or are you done?

I enjoy politics. I have a passion for it. Definitely have interest in getting involved again at some point. I have two teenage kids, and I think they need a bit of time right now. Life's pretty busy for me, [but] definitely politics is in my blood.

With files from Loren McGinnis