Mayoral candidate Malcolm Parker painted a polarizing picture of the mayoral race, and by extension, the councillor race, Wednesday night at the mayoral forum.
To paraphrase, Parker said on one side you have a mayoral candidate in Cathy Heron who is progressive and likes to spend taxpayer dollars. On the other side, Parker added, you have mayoral candidate Cam MacKay who doesn’t want to spend any money, which he said is a detriment to a growing and vibrant city. Parker offered himself up as the candidate who can balance the two extremes.
Parker’s observations are generalizations, as we’re certain both Heron and MacKay have moderate positions on all sorts of civic issues. He has, however, rightly identified two distinctive camps during this campaign, and some of those who are running for council fall into one camp or the other.
Politics by its very nature is divisive, and it always will be. It doesn’t matter which city or town, which province or country – wherever democracy exists, there is divisiveness based on ideology. Ideas are the foundation of a strong society, however, when falsehoods masquerade as ideas, or when half-truths are used to support ideas, societies can suffer dire consequences. Human history is littered with examples.
That is why it is incumbent on the electorate to be informed of the issues and the candidates who seek their support. There have been a lot of outright lies, half-truths and pure venom spewed during the last four weeks. In the pages of the Gazette, readers will notice there’s been a fair amount of third-party advertising over the election period, with citizens who want to pay for space to voice their concerns. The Gazette, however, has turned down a significant amount of third-party advertising (as well as several letters to the editor) because they contained falsehoods, defamatory comments or misleading information. When these people were informed the Gazette would not run their ads because of these reasons (reasons which could also incite lawsuits against the advertiser and the newspaper), reactions have ranged from outrage to claiming the Gazette is picking sides in this election. People seem to think that if they’re paying for the space in the Gazette, they can print whatever they want. After all, they can post it on social media, so why not the local paper?
Many people are used to posting on social media whatever comes to their mind. During this election, pure vitriol, hatred and slanderous statements have been espoused by citizens in an effort to support the ideas of particular candidates and disparage those candidates who oppose those ideas. These groups are active on Facebook and their pages will undoubtedly light up with vileness aimed squarely at the Gazette once their users read this editorial.
Voting day is fast at hand. If you’re not sure who to vote for, it’s not too late to do your due diligence. Visit the St. Albert Gazette’s election section on its website and pour over the election section contained in today’s edition. Familiarize yourself with the candidates and the issues. Have a look at the social media silos. Compare fact and fiction. An informed electorate is truly needed to ensure good governance.