Candidate slates create several problems
By: Jared Milne
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 02, 2013 06:00 am
The City of Calgary made the news recently when a group of wealthy developers talked about running a slate of candidates in that city’s civic election. The developers apparently didn’t think anyone could beat popular Mayor Naheed Nenshi in the mayoral race, but thought that if they could get a majority of the votes on Council, they would be able to outvote him anyway. The tactic arguably backfired, as the discussion was videotaped and released to the media, generating bad publicity for the developers.
Thankfully, there’s been no evidence of anyone trying to run a slate of candidates in St. Albert’s municipal election. Certain groups, such as the Election Action Committee, openly support of certain candidates, they are not enough on their own to form a full slate. The candidates these groups support will still need as much support as they can get and as broad an appeal as possible. With a huge number of candidates running, anybody could get elected, and by a narrow margin. Even if everyone supported by a certain group gets elected, they will still have to cooperate and find common ground with the rest of the new Council.
This is as it should be. There are several problems with running a slate of candidates. For one thing, if they all have the same agenda, that reduces the opportunity for debate and hearing different points of view. And if only a few candidates out of the slate get elected, will they even be able to get their agenda passed? Are they prepared to cooperate with anyone else who’s not part of their clique, but managed to get elected anyway?
Cooperation, compromise and enabling multiple opinions to be heard are an essential part of the democratic process. In a legislature, different political parties can all give voice to the different parts of the population they speak for, but if a slate of candidates dominates a municipal council the opportunity for that debate and compromise is weakened, when it’s not just snuffed out.
This is a serious problem in provincial and federal politics, where strict party discipline often prevents party members from speaking up for their constituents, but at the municipal level there’s less danger of that happening. Instead, all the individual candidates will have to get elected on their own merits. None of them will be able to advance their goals by themselves, and they’ll have to cooperate with one another if they expect to get anywhere.
St. Albert has been fortunate in that we usually get a lot of people running for office in our municipal elections. They typically have a wide variety of ideas and goals, giving the voters a lot of choice. With no slate of candidates running in this election, almost anything can happen and almost any candidate could get elected. Those candidates, in turn, will have to cooperate with each other in trying to govern our city.
This, as much as anything, is the challenge that our new Council will face. Given the variety of ideas that the candidates are advancing, as a city St. Albert cannot afford to be caught up in the infighting that has plagued communities like Sturgeon County. We are facing major challenges on everything from property taxes to attracting businesses to supporting arts and heritage to providing space for our youth. Cooperation among our new Councillors, and compromise in trying to balance their different goals, will be essential.
St. Albert deserves nothing less.
Jared Milne is a St. Albert resident with a passion for Canadian history and politics.