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Slates and municipal elections

Approximately 200 municipalities in Alberta in 2025 vote for municipal candidates, voting for one’s favorite candidate based on a variety of reasons.

Approximately 200 municipalities in Alberta in 2025 vote for municipal candidates, voting for one’s favorite candidate based on a variety of reasons. Research shows that there is usually a direct link between a candidate’s door knocking and their vote count but of course there are many other factors which are outlined in the book: The Political Campaign "How-to" Guide: Win The Election. Reasons for voting for one candidate over another ranges from gender preference by the voter to the voter’s age preference of the candidate. Reasons also include longevity in the community and the impact of influential endorsement tactics of third parties.

In Alberta, there have been examples where groups or “slates” attempt to become elected as a group in a “vote-for-one-of-us-vote-for-all-of-us” tactic. This tactic can be seen as a group-think endorsement. These slates are usually formed as the result of a movement or the acceptance of a particular ideology. The groups may also rally around one issue that has resulted in the formation of a disgruntled group in the community.

These slate attempts in Alberta fail over and over again. Voters tend to vote for individual candidates of their choosing and not vote based on the ideology of a group or slate. There has been recent contemplation by some that it may be appropriate for municipal candidates to declare their party affiliation prior to an election to assist the voter in choosing their “body” more as a collective rather than individuals. However, experience has shown that many candidates do not have a party affiliation and would prefer not to have an affiliation. For many who are involved in or aware of municipal politics, they may not fully understand party affiliation and as such, having to declare a party may be simply an exercise in guesswork, especially early in one’s political life.

In about 2010, I phoned a British Columbia city mayor who shared the following insight a few years after being elected: “All candidates had declared their partisan party affiliation, as did I as a mayoral candidate. After the election, we ended up having two slates on council (by default) and ended up with a 3-4 vote split on every matter and along party lines. As a new mayor, I was often on the side of the three, and I had difficulty navigating the body for the entire term." This mayor went on to say that some of his colleagues and members of the public thought he was simply being difficult to deal with instead of being collaborative when he was actually voting along party lines. He shared that he wished he had never declared a party affiliation.     

Perhaps an ideal situation is that we elect all centrist-thinking municipal mayors, reeves and councillors, all who will each judge every issue on its merits, not based on the slate or ideology of those sitting at the table.  With the municipal elections now being next year (October 2025), we have a few months to contemplate this. 

Most understand that “potholes are not right or left” or “firefighting is not liberal or conservative." In a world divided in so many ways, including politics, surely we can find a way to not divide ourselves along pothole lines, at least at the municipal tables.

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