Election Column – Feb. 6 2014 edition of The Voice

October is Just Around the Corner

By Peter Cantelon

I am an election junkie.

I mean it…I eat, breathe and dream elections for some reason. I really don’t know why but I do. I hope to make you into one as well before the next municipal and school board election on October 22 of this year (or maybe I will make you sick of it by then but at least you will be thinking about them).

Did you know the City of Morden had 16 candidates running for seven spots in the last municipal election? Fourteen of those candidates were running for six councillors’ positions. The City of Winkler had eleven candidates, running for seven positions.

Voter turnout in the region was very different – more than 51 percent in Morden (which is huge no matter where the election is) and only 28 percent in Winkler. By contrast the RM of Stanley didn’t even have enough candidates to fill all of its councillor positions and one had to be appointed while the remainder (including reeve) were acclaimed.

What a strange scenario we have in our region. We are all so close but all so different from one end of the Pembina Valley to the other.

So how many candidates are too many and how many is too few? There is no satisfactory answer except – it depends.

That Morden had so many candidates might have been a good thing if it weren’t for the fact that many had no platform whatsoever or were running on one issue. Prospective candidates should think long and hard about their platform before throwing their hat into the ring. If the only thing you are passionate about is one issue, than maybe you would be better off publicly supporting other candidates in their run and helping them campaign.

The fact that Stanley had so few candidates is definitely an issue when, in a democratic process, you want to feel as if you have some choice regardless of how well qualified a slate is.

Winkler had a bit of both really – plenty of councillor candidates but only one mayoral candidate. Once again, no matter how good a particular candidate is in the role of mayor or reeve there should be more than one to choose from. Another reason for needing more than one candidate is that it brings out the voters – this is likely the primary reason Morden had so many voters out.

Prospective candidates should also know what they are in for. At the next all-candidates meeting ask how many of those running for office for the first time have ever been to a council or school board meeting before – you might be shocked at the answer. Candidates should also know there is a whole lot more than attending council or school board meetings to the role. I have known local councillors to have as many as 50 meetings in a single month…are you prepared for this commitment?

Why am I writing so much about an election that is nine months away? That nine months is going to fly…prospective candidates have only a handful of opportunities left to start attending council meetings and become familiar with the process and issues. Attending these council meetings will also help set some expectations and help you avoid a very common mistake –over promising.

As a trustee you are only one vote amongst many. As a councillor you are only one vote amongst many. As a mayor or reeve you are only one vote amongst many.

What this means is that you should have a high level of healthy skepticism of candidates and their commitments. If you hear – “I promise to make sure that we will have an indoor pool” – then think twice, because no one can make that commitment when they are one of many – they can only promise to work hard toward an objective.

Further to all of this the electorate needs to invoke memory – the most powerful tool you have in selecting a council. Go back and read the articles leading up to the last election (you can Google them online) and remember the promises of candidates who are running for re-election in 2014. What did they say they would do? Did they do it?

Finally I would state that above everything I have written here there is one thing I would like to see in the upcoming election – more female candidates. Ladies – where are you and why aren’t you running?

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