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June 17, 2013

Already the drumbeats of the October civic election are thumping throughout the media. A new mayor for sure. And new councillors too, depending on retirements, resignations, being bounced out at the polls. Feeling the nudge of responsibility yet?

As Canadians, Albertans, Edmontonians, we have the freedom to vote. But with that freedom comes the duty to exercise the informed choice of who is going to govern and guide our city. Think of Toronto and its ongoing civic drama that even makes international news.

If we do not make a knowledgeable vote, we have no right to grump when potholes mangle our car's front end, or a major stand of trees is leveled, or heritage-style buildings crumble under the wrecker's ball, or millions are splashed out for a building only the well-to-do can enter and enjoy.

True, Edmonton and indeed Alberta are in a unique situation in that so many of us are from away. The lure of jobs and prosperity bring us to this Prairie province and its cities to find work. Most think we'll make our money and then go back home. This makes for a transient mindset, as though what happens in Alberta doesn't matter. But a funny thing happens when we come here. Roots start to burrow into grassland soil. And home is here.

Now is the time for us to read the news reports, catch the interviews on television and radio, pepper candidates with emails, make phone calls on key issues, go to meetings, ask questions.

Is the candidate comfortable with the poor, the homeless, committed to giving them a hand up? Where are the poor going to go when the Quarters area in the inner city is developed? The poor want to know.

Pope Francis cares and says in a Catholic News Service story, "Some homeless people freeze to death on the street; that is not news. A drop of 10 points in the stock markets in some cities is a tragedy. That is how people are thrown away . . . as if we were trash."

How do the candidates practise their faith? We have the right to know if they have a relationship with God, a higher power. This gives an expectation of their behaviour on council.

Do they care about the ravages on the city's river valley, the gobbling up of surrounding farmland, the care of the vulnerable souls - the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill? Do they have the integrity to not be sidelined by a dance-band-on-the-Titanic issue like the downtown arena?

Is there a sense their council bid is just a step up the power ladder on their way to provincial or federal politics?

A lot to consider when people of power are chosen. Pope Francis asked them in a homily to "be protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment."

Our votes matter. Choose wisely.