Well if you haven’t heard by now, Redcliff town council ended up passing it’s controversial “Communication with Litigants” bylaw amendment without too much public furor or objection. Despite a very good case made against some of sections of the amendment by Coun. Larry Leipert, which he called unconstitutional, the amendment passed second and third reading to become law at last Monday’s meeting.
The silence in the room was deafening. No voters came by to see this sweeping law passed which gave broad discretionary powers to the municipal manager to bar delegates to council who may potentially bring a law suit before the town, and their relatives and associates. No one asked to speak to council on the issue to raise their concerns. No one was watching the vote to see who said what to who and why.
So it appears the citizens of Redcliff had no problems with the bylaw amendment. Or no one cared enough to show up and voice their concerns if they had them. Which amounts to the same thing.
Civic politics isn’t always the most interesting to watch as councillors discuss and vote on the minutia which ensures the garbage keeps getting collected, the streets get repaired and the local skating rinks operate through the winter. It is the level of politics which most effects peoples’ lives, but you wouldn’t know it by the general lack of citizen engagement in day to day affairs or at election time.
However, for one brief moment these past few weeks Coun. Larry Leipert made it matter. He took a principled stand and stood up to his fellow councillors against what he clearly saw as an undemocratic law.
Despite being a lone voice in the wilderness, he spoke up anyway. He spoke with passion. He offered compromises. He made motions and counter-motions. He asked for considered thought to prevail. He was voted down every time, but he kept trying.
Had Coun. Leipert not been so forceful and passionate there would have been no public awareness of this bylaw amendment at all. That there was even modest public debate on a civic bylaw is a triumph for citizen engagement, government accountability and democracy. Leipert may have been the loser at vote counting time, but he was definitely the winner when it came to standing by his principles.
You can’t win them all. And sometimes you can’t even win that much. The important thing is to keep moving forward, and never be afraid to fight the battles you feel need to be fought.