Vote for the person, not the binder - Denny Scott editorial
On the page previous to this, you’ll notice The Citizen’s editor Shawn Loughlin reminding everyone how important voting is when it comes time for the upcoming election, and while it is crucial we all get out and vote, it’s only part of the equation.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with what’s written (after all, there’s only so much space there), I’m just saying everyone needs to remember that voting should only come after careful consideration.
Voting is important, but informed voting is what makes democracy work. How does a voter do that? First they have to figure out who best represents what they stand for. You can do that a number of ways, like reading The Citizen’s coverage of the local all-candidates meeting in last week’s issue that, hopefully, told you a bit about where the candidates stand on some of the issues. Of course, with a lot of our local candidates, you could also just take a look around their party’s page, as it often seems the platform, not the candidates, dictates the causes.
Voters can also reach out to individual candidates and ask them questions about what they feel is important for the local riding and the country.
Voters can take a look at the mailers that the candidates and their parties are sending out which can serve as a primer.
Finally, voters can, like I did a couple weeks ago, head to any number of websites that offer a quiz to best match them with a political party.
The problem with this (and, if you ask some people, the entire political system) is that we should be making our voting decisions based on two things: the local candidate and the leader. More and more it seems we’re voting for a leader or party and local candidates are just toeing the party line.
Huron and Bruce Counties have had successful candidates, in my lifetime, that voted in favour of the riding instead of
their party, and, love or hate those candidates, you have to respect someone who puts
their voters before the policy binder they carry.
We need more of that. We need candidates you trust and respect instead of just matching a three-letter acronym or a colour to a name and voting that way.
Late last week, the Institute for Research on Public Policy (which may be best known by its publication, Policy Options) reviewed a report entitled Local Candidate Effect in Canadian Elections which was published by Cambridge University Press. The findings were that evaluation of local candidates accounts for only four per cent of the vote, and that minimal impact only makes a difference in 10 per cent of the electoral districts.
What does that mean? It means Canadians are more interested in the binder the local candidate is holding than the local
Politics has always been a fascinating field to me because, for a long time I’d considered it something I may want to pursue. Call it naive optimism or youthful dreams, but I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my great-grandfather, Senator William Henry Golding. He spent more than a decade as a municipal councillor and mayor of Seaforth, more than a decade in federal Parliament and more than a decade in the senate. To mix some metaphors, those are some big shoes to fill, if I ever were to decide to try to follow in his footsteps.
I’m led to believe, however, that him getting elected to those positions was more of a personal achievement than it would be if I repeated any of it because, way back when, people put more stock in their local representative and less in the party leader. Maybe it’s because of how interconnected our world is or maybe it’s due to the 24-hour news cycle that focuses on the larger city centres, but I often feel we’re losing touch with our candidates. That’s by no fault of their own, but because we’ve shifted our focus. People rarely say, “I’m going to vote for Ben Lobb” or “I’m going to vote for James Rice”, they say they are going to vote Conservative or Liberal (and I just picked the two most populous parties there, not any kind of preferential treatment).
Heck, I’d go so far as to say that getting elected for municipal politics says more about a person’s character than winning a provincial or federal seat.
I’m not saying that those who have won those elections were the wrong people for the job: I’m just saying that the research backs me up when I say that it’s not a personal contest but one of political leaders and policies. That’s wrong. We should be voting for the best person to represent and lead our counties, regardless of the colour of their mailers.