Stay in the game!
In less than two months, we’ll be voting – our municipal election is heating up. The only political party in the running, Action Gatineau, has announced its full slate. And each Council seat has now attracted enough candidates to make our choices interesting – and important – for our city’s future.
Our candidate choices affect our everyday lives. World events are glamorous, but distant, and, in fact, these women and men we elect could affect international events, if they were determined enough. They could, for example, institute a buy-local policy which would challenge harmful “trade” deals inked by the feds. They could, as in the US, declare our city a sanctuary city; they could defy – or amplify –cultural decisions of the provincial government (think religious accom-modation) . . . and so on. No one can brush this election off as trivial.
As candidates sign on, we voters might consider what could be going on behind the scenes. We could question the meaning and role of that single political party in the campaign, for example.
And take the mayor’s race. We have, at last count, one incumbent, plus four challengers. Four? Do we need five candidates for one office? How different are the principles and directions they each represent? Is more always better?
Consider that in an election with one incumbent, unless he/she is running against high-profile competitors, a long list of challengers gives the incumbent an advantage which has nothing to do with his/her abilities or record. Who knows these challengers? We know the incumbent. He’s in the Bulletin d’Aylmer every week. His name is recognizable. The others? Rather than offering real choice, don’t they dissipate opposition to the incumbent?
Some still argue that extra choice is good, even if it distracts voters. Suppose, for example, there is widespread dissatisfaction with an incumbent’s record. That dis-satisfaction is focussed if the incumbent has only one or two challengers. It is dissipated with many challengers, each appealing to a specific group or issue; the incumbent – the least attractive of all candidates (in our example) – will win because she/he is recognizable and has a campaign machine built over the years and supported by those she/he has benefitted. Many challengers spread thin the voters’ dissatisfaction.
Throw in a political party – which can fundraise all year long, building a big war chest – and that incumbent now has advantages which would carry her/him past anybody’s dissatisfaction: the least popular wins!
There’s little we can do to avoid this, except pay attention to the issues and talk them up to all our acquaintances. We might also consider if any single-party system is really democratic: it gives the fundraising advantage to its members and it often forces (as we see federally and provincially) our representatives to tow the party line rather than their constituents’ interests.
We can take this election seriously; we can talk the issues up, go to the debate. We can assist – and donate! – to candidates of our choice.