FACE TO FACE: Are official civic slates or parties good for municipal elections?
My colleague thinks candidates for municipal office should seek election under the banners of political parties. Supposedly, this would allow the electorate to know where candidates stood on local issues.
In Vancouver, COPE, Vision Vancouver and the Non-Partisan Association are slates of politicians with similar political perspectives. So why shouldn't we try this here?
(And isn't it tempting to support instituting a civic political party system that might finally force Vancouver's NPA to declare itself conservative rather than its ridiculous current claim of being non-partisan?)
Provincial and federal political agendas don't much mesh with civic issues such as garbage collection and community action plans. In addition, in municipal politics, where a few thousand votes can defeat or elect a candidate, political parties and slates don't work.
Why not? Look at Abbotsford. Civic elections in Abbotsford are quite simple: Churches give their congregations a list of the candidates they support. The anointed list of candidates can count on receiving upwards of 8,000 votes from the religious community, many of whom they don't even know.
Regardless of their stance on discreet local issues - whether they support building a new fire hall or rec centre, are in favour of installing roundabouts, filling in ditches or changing a controversial zoning designation - they start with 8,000 votes from the flock.
No matter their intelligence, commitment to and knowledge of the community, these candidates each start with 8,000 votes - support based on an affiliation with a group unrelated to the civic political issues of Abbotsford.
Those who follow municipal politics know that any civic election candidate starting a campaign with 8,000 committed votes, could likely beat Jesus in an election, if Jesus weren't on the slate.
Civic elections with slates of candidates encourage already indifferent civic voters to vote by rote; to not bother researching local issues or candidates; to simply vote for the people of the appropriate political party.
In civic elections, we should vote for people, not organizations or political parties. We should vote for neighbours, friends or colleagues with good community reputations, good citizens whose commitment and pragmatism we have experienced and can count on.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.