The most important thing we can do during an election is to vote.
Given turnouts of less than 30 per cent of eligible voters now common in municipal elections, a few votes can affect outcomes and lead to important changes in policies.
Well-informed voters who find out where the candidates stand on issues and talk about what they have learned with friends and neighbours can bring about the changes they want.
Identifying the politicians who listen and learn is the first step. The next step is to get out the votes for chosen candidates.
After that comes the hard part: persuading the bureaucrats to want to implement the programs you support.
All of this takes some time and some work, and it cannot be done without patiently building trust and teamwork. Don’t abandon your elected officials once you have elected them. Stay in touch, funnel them useful information.
To make some progress toward local food security, now is the time to find out what local farmers need to earn a living producing healthy, fresh food for us. You’ll find some of these farmers at the winter food market at the Pleasant Valley Hall on Wednesday afternoons, and others listed on the Nanaimo Foodshare website.
We know now that much of the food being eaten has lost its nutritive qualities due to over-processing. Our food systems are broken because global pursuit of maximum profit works against the production of healthy food and depends on destructive production and distribution systems. We also know that successive senior UN officials concerned with food security are calling for the rebuilding of local food systems and greater emphasis on agroecology and agroforestry. We know also that small farms produce more value per acre than huge ones.
Ask the candidates for election on Nov. 15 how zoning affects the new, non-industrial agriculture. You will get some surprising answers. Below are some more food security-related questions.
Do the candidates know the difference between a garden and a farm?
What is council doing or could council do to support the distribution and sale of locally grown food?
Are soil bylaws about keeping soils healthy?
What could city council do to help seed savers preserve seeds locally for local use instead of having to buy from Monsanto and similar corporations?
Do the candidates favour a municipal food purchasing policy, with targets for purchasing locally produced food?
Would candidates advocate for the municipality to work with other levels of government on food security issues?
Why don’t we have community root cellar facilities for storage of potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips through the winter?
How can council support local processing of local foods to replace over-processed foods from globalized corporations?
Do we have enough certified kitchens around the city to teach kids and adults how to cook from scratch?
What are candidates’ views on the Corporate Strategic Plan for Beban Park?
Ask school board candidates about policies to ensure that all students receive sufficient, good, local food.
Now is the time to ask the questions and enter into the fascinating world of policy formation and implementation.
Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at email@example.com.