There is a lot of buzz currently about the 2022 municipal elections in the Capital Region, highlighting emerging slates and their candidates. Does this suggest a trend toward party politics, slates or block voting at the local level?
Local media have done a good job of keeping voters across the region informed about candidates and platforms, providing candidate profiles and backgrounds on slates. Local organizations have also been active in reaching out to candidates through questionnaires. These activities can be effective in keeping voters informed. Yet In some communities, the coverage has also prompted concerns and questions about who is running, what alliances they have and why.
A well known adage that local government is closest to the communities and residents it serves still holds true for me. It’s the one level of government that, for the most part, has remained free of party politics, slates and block voting. The majority of independent candidates are “rooted” in their communities and therefore, informed by the people and places where they live or work.
Local elections and governments should be influenced by their residents through robust, direct public engagement focused on the needs and aspirations of the community at large. Direct interaction with local voters also creates greater accountability and transparency, two important cornerstones in a representative democracy.
This year, however, there appears to be a shift in some communities towards slates, where candidates share a platform or an ideology, raising the possibility of block voting. I have been asked if I believe slates and/or party politics are appropriate at the local government level and my answer has always been a resounding “No.” Ideally, local government should be free of party political influences. Elected representatives should be independent, to encourage and sustain a more healthy and impartial representative system of local government.
What I have appreciated most about my experience in local government is that there has been little or no room for party politics or slates in local elections or at Council tables. I realize this is not always the case in all communities, especially in larger, more urban B.C. centres. But, for the most part, over the past 20 years, local government elections on Southern Vancouver Island have tended to stress the importance of supporting and electing independent candidates.
The independence of candidates in this year’s municipal and school board elections should be up for debate among voters, to ensure that all candidates bring an independent vision, not a collective agenda, to decision-making tables and to the future of their communities.