Opinion: Promises, promises

Here’s a request for candidates seeking election in the upcoming school board and municipal election: Only promise what you can deliver.

Here’s a simple request for candidates seeking election in the upcoming school board and municipal election: Only promise what you can deliver.

That might seem an obvious request. But all too often, candidates vow to achieve things they clearly cannot. They either fail to provide the true cost of their promise, or they promise something outside the legal mandate of the office they seek.

Call it exuberance. Call it ignorance. Either way it doesn’t serve the voter and it disrespects the process.

For example, there are some fairly severe limits on what a city can and cannot do.

It must work within the provincial legislation that governs its existence. A promise to silence every train whistle within the city boundaries might sound attractive, but trains are a federal responsibility. City council can’t make them do anything.

Likewise, a promise by a school board candidate to hire more teachers won’t happen without an explanation of where the money to pay for those new employees will come from. School districts (unlike the federal or provincial government, or even a city), cannot, by provincial law, run a deficit.

Which brings up the second point: Money.

Rarely does a promise come without a cost, and candidates have an obligation to identify what that cost will be.

A promise to double the number of parks in the city, for example, might draw support. But what will it cost to maintain those parks, and what impact will the removal of that land from the tax base have on city finances?

A promise to cut taxes, or at least hold them at zero, must also include details on where the cuts in services will be made (or alternate revenue found)  to accommodate that plan.

None of this is to suggest candidates can’t have ideas or voice creative and imaginative solutions to the problems communities like Chilliwack face. But they have an obligation to voters to ensure that what they promise is practical – or even possible.

And we as voters have the responsibility to do the research and ask the tough questions to ensure these lofty ideas have some grounding in reality.