Candidates split on election tone
Campaign has been negative to some potential councillors, positive to others
| Posted: Friday, Oct 18, 2013 02:30 pm
As the municipal campaign season draws to a close, some candidates feel the civic election has taken on a negative tone.
The local race has drawn regional attention due to digitally-altered photos on an anonymous blog and anti-council ads by the anonymous group St. Albert Think Tank.
One photo on the blog St. Albert Insight (which has since been shut down) showed incumbent Mayor Nolan Crouse sitting on a toilet, suggesting he was throwing tax money down the drain. Another photo on the same blog showed the names of some candidates above urinals, implying a slate associated with Crouse.
Many candidates used the words “disappointing” or “unfortunate” when describing the tone of the election and would have liked to see the focus be on the issues. Others found citizens have been engaged with the issues and felt election season has been positive.
Crouse said he struggles with the fact that he’s the target of so many attacks when he’s only got one competitor, Shelley Biermanski.
“I don’t think the issues have gotten a fair shake,” he said. He did note the mayor’s role is “to be that lightning rod for stuff.”
Biermanski said there are two sides to this campaign, including a positive side where there’s been lots of discussion and interested members of the public, as well as positivity while door-knocking and at the forums.
“I’m not happy with the fact that two little minor cartoons, who knows who even did them … have taken such a grand focus and taken away from the actual issues,” Biermanski said.
Council candidates weighed in on the election tone as well.
Wes Brodhead called some of the tone “childish.”
“I don’t think it raises the standard of political debate in our community and it brings the whole process into disrepute,” he said.
Roger Bradley said he’s found the tone a bit unfortunate, a sentiment shared by many of his fellow candidates. John Goldsmith said, while the election’s gone well for him, he finds it unfortunate other communities might be wondering what the issue is in St. Albert.
Mark Cassidy referenced some of the tone during his opening speech at the chamber of commerce forum, noting there are groups trying to divide the candidates.
“Let’s not lose our common sense,” Cassidy said.
Norm Harley said the tone seems to a bit nastier than it was in 2010. He’s tried to stay out of it, noting there’s been many candidates who’ve had their signs knocked down, which he called “childish.”
“I think that in anything in life your number-one rule is always treat the other people with respect,” Harley said.
Cathy Heron also said the tone has been different from 2010 and said she’s been trying to stay out of it, but finds “fear mongering” a “little disappointing.”
Gareth Jones isn’t happy with the tone it’s taken and believes elections should be fought fairly with open debate on the issues.
Tim Osborne suggested the anonymity of the Internet has let some lose respect in how they express their opinions, though said he thinks the majority of people in St. Albert are “able to express their opinions with respect and courtesy.”
Malcolm Parker said the tone has been disappointing to him, as are the attempts to form unofficial slates.
“I’m not in favour of slates at the municipal level,” he said.
Ted Durham said people speak nicely of each other in public, but “in the background there is some really dirty things going on.”
Issues should be addressed and debated, he said. Durham said rumours have been spread via social media about an issue his family had with the hockey association and a settlement that was made.
David Climenhaga called the tone “sharp and controversial,” noting there’s some vigorous disagreement over how to run the city. He’s “bugged” by the claims that disagreement is bullying.
Sign vandalism has likely occurred for all candidates, Climenhaga said.
Bob Russell finds the tone of this election “pretty tame.”
“We’ve had lots tougher elections in my time,” he said. “I think it’s pretty placid.”
Candidates Sheena Hughes and Cam MacKay both said they’ve found the tone positive.
“I think it’s been really positive and interesting. It’s kind of what people should be doing, is looking at the issues and looking at the candidates,” Hughes said. She said a lot of residents and candidates have been engaged with the issues.
MacKay said such engagement has been “nice to see.” He said he feels the tone has been “pretty good.
“I’ve had a lot of positive comments at the doors and from people,” MacKay said.
Gilles Prefontaine did not want to comment on the election tone.