With a historic municipal election just one day away, eighteen council hopefuls are campaigning for a seat in the Council Chambers. Along with four mayoral and trustee candidates, they form one of the largest pools of candidates the municipality has ever seen. With voters facing a wide variety of choices, the Herald looks to engage candidates and showcase their responses to the community’s question.
This week, the eighteen candidates for Council were sent their final question, regarding the mitigation of conflict within City Council. Their received responses, in random order:
This week’s question: If elected, how would you mitigate conflict with fellow Councillors and curb the use of divisive politics?
Adam Etchart (incumbent):
“One way to mitigate conflict would be to follow a council code of conduct. To communicate with respect and commonly accepted decorum is important. Council makes decisions as a group, and must respect the differing opinions around the council table. Once decisions are made we must stand behind decisions and act as cohesive as possible.”
“If elected, I would work on mitigating conflict by being honest and open with my fellow council members and Mayor. If something is on our minds, we should voice our concern instead of bottling in our true thoughts and feelings. This will skew our ability to make clear choices later on. As far as divisive politics go, we need a diverse council to see all issues from different points of views. Sometimes there will be a difference of opinions of how things should be handled, but all you can do is present your case and you may have to agree to disagree on some topics. But you can’t hold resentment, instead you must move on to the next order of business.”
“I have learned throughout my life to work with many different people who express themselves in a variety of ways, having positive communication, understanding that each person has their own thought process, we must value each other and not try to devalue each other’s ideas. When elected to office a person must always remember that for the four years of their term, we might not always have the same point of view or how we want to solve a problem, we must listen, learn to communicate, work together, and learn to compromise, find solutions to any situation. The goal is to always do the best we can for all the citizens of Merritt fighting, arguing, not working with others has caused problems for our city and makes the people of Merritt not trust in their elected leaders. We must think, listen, find solutions together that benefit our city and show that we are united in making Merritt a place we can all be proud of.”
Claire Newman (incumbent, District of Logan Lake):
“In 14 years of municipal governance, I have yet to sit at a table that has been plagued by conflict. In my opinion, conflict and divisive politics simply should not exist at a council table.
Council Chambers should be where well thought out discussion and debate occur for the betterment of our community as a whole. Each elected official will always bring a different perspective and voice to the discussion that should be respectfully listened to and responded to in the same manner. Councillors are elected individually to work as part of a team. Each elected official should understand that no one person is better than the other and collectively as a team we can make far greater accomplishments for our community when we are working together for a common goal. Opinions will often differ, and your council will likely not always be unanimous in their final decisions; however a good working council will be able to understand this and leave any differences at the table. This is a four-year commitment, where as a team we need to be able to continue through agendas, meetings and our term in office knowing these differences of opinions are not to be taken personally and that we represent our community not ourselves at the table.”
Susan Roline (Mayor, 2008-2014):
“I would strive to mitigate conflict with fellow councillors by ensuring I was always respectful of differing opinions and ideas. I would check to ensure my words do not cause arguments while still maintaining the debate required around the Council table. What I have learned is that most conflicts arise due to people not understanding or knowing where the other person is coming from. Taking time to get to know each other better should be a priority of a new Council.”
“Political conversations are rooted in very personal concerns for our own safety and livelihood, for the health of our community, and for our family’s future well-being. Give each party a chance to talk, and listen to their concerns. If you want to stay with a conversation in a productive way, listen more. Avoid giving comments or opinions that will hurt or disrespect. Practice empathy and compassion. It will foster healthy communication and strengthen the connection. The more we come together around these shared values, the more we can talk with one another.”
“Conflict will always happen between human beings. It is unavoidable. Either Ego or arrogance will come to play and will manifest into a heated discussion. It will happen to each of us as we are human beings. Each of us will get heated about a topic we are passionate about.
Being aware will allow oneself to catch themselves before they fly off the deep end and learning to understand your own style of communication is essential to avoid conflict. I always expect conflict when discussion begins, the degree of conflict is dependant on how the styles of communication are interacting with one another. I would personally mitigate conflict by listening before I speak or choosing not to speak at all. At Times, speaking on the facts of a topic can create conflict. There will be times where conflict will arise no matter if you speak or stay silent and walking away becomes the best choice and solution.”
“Lateral violence within peers and vertical violence (bullying) and divisive politics can over time lead to low morale, high staff turn over, increased absences and low productivity.
“Thus after the 2022 election I would like to spend time with my fellow councillors, Mayor, and staff to examine an excellent 46 page document entitled “Forging the Path to Responsible Conduct.” This paper was developed in 2016 by the UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities) and the Local Government Management Association. It is endorsed and followed by all municipalities.
“Council members must have understanding and respect, not necessarily agreement. If this does not happen the parties involved in a disagreement must work together to come to a mutually acceptable resolution. Engaging with the person who was impacted by your conduct is a good opportunity to clear the air. This would be in private. If necessary, have a third party attend who is neutral. If this does not solve the issue then the courts might have to be involved. In conclusion, if all Council members are respectful, honest, accountable and treat other Council members fairly, then hopefully conflict will not arise.”
“I try to understand where a person’s point of view is ‘coming from’ when a discussion or debate ensues. I think about the person’s background & education and if I disagree on an issue, I try to get my point across and be open minded to theirs. I am a good listener and generally ask questions to have issues and beliefs clarified. If a discussion gets too heated, I’m known to suggest that there be a cooling down period (take a break; go for a walk and get some fresh air or postpone to another date before the issue is addressed by the Council again). Taking a ‘vote’ on any council policy or issue that would have an enduring effect on the City during such a time, is something I would not recommend.
“In my own business, I have faced many a time at Staff Meetings where I have had to end a discussion and move on to the next topic on the agenda. I have suggested that the parties involved get together on their own time and try to work out their differences. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and that’s when all parties have to sit down and come to an agreement on how we can all work together better.
If there is growing concern that individuals on Council will not agree to disagree, then I believe that it is the responsibility of the Mayor to try to mitigate conflict between Council members. Ultimately, as Councillors, we have to remember why we are on Council: to serve our Community, not our own personal issues or agendas.”
To view the weekly question asked to Mayoral and School Trustee candidates, along with all of the Herald’s coverage of this election, view the ‘Civic Elections’ tab on the Herald’s website.
The municipal election will take place on October 15, and will see Merrittonians elect one Mayor, six Councillors, and four School Trustees to a four year term. For more information on the election, visit www.merritt.ca/election22.