Well, we are now at ELEVEN candidates to replace our failed councillor Adam Giambrone in ward 18 Davenport (*). For TDSB School Trustee, so far it looks like Maria Rodrigues will be acclaimed as the only candidate in that "race". The Mayoral race currentlyt has THIRTY candidates, with the mainstream media claiming only 6 of them are the "frontrunners".
* January = 2 candidates, February = 4, March = 5, April = 6, May = 9,
June = 11 candidates
(candidates have until September 10 to declare or withdraw from the race)
Is this really a good thing for local democracy?
There have been allegations in the past from certain community lobby groups and individuals that the "Fringe" candidates are a waste of time and not worth hearing from or being invited to debates. While holding events with a minute or more allotted to each candidate can prove logistically onerous and seemingly unworkable, much of this attitude is simply self-serving expressed political leanings from those that expect they might gain the most from certain individuals getting elected. Truth be told, each of those already committed followers would perefer to see only one candidate - their choice - getting the attention. Coronations or acclamations would be even better in their view.
Most city level elections boast the sad reality of the lowest voter turnout. Most voters will simply choose a name they have heard of before, often unaware of the stance that person has on the issues. Elections often tend to be popularity contests where cleverly crafted sound bytes and staged events draw attention to name recognition. Issues often take second place, with the inevitable result that nothing really changes much.
Another inevitable result is that citizens continue to be disappointed in the results and complain that "all politicians are the same", "why bother voting", my vote "makes no difference". Cynicism grows and democracy withers.
So - YES, FRINGE CANDIDATES ARE GOOD
... at least in the initial stages of campaigning and public events like debates.
Example: See the substance of issues at: http://www.junctiontriangle.ca/node/719
Fringe candidates will often bring attention to the issues that "front-runners" won't for a multitude of reasons:
- Contentious issues are better left unmentioned or deflected, since taking a stand will mean dividing potential support
- Staying with outside the ward issues and speaking to what city-wide media see as "THE" issues means getting valuable press attention that supports name recognition. This means local issues are often ignored or left unaddressed.
- Front-runners often have ties to political parties and must show loyal allegiance to political philosophies, even if locally constituents hold another position, again, meaning potential loss of support
- Front runners have to worry that if they did get elected, past promises not kept would come back to haunt them and end their lucrative careers in the next election. It is better for them to be as non-specific as possible while still sound like they might support voters' views
- Those that have city hall experience, either as incumbents or staff to former incumbents, often have loyalties and allegiances to inner circle cliques whose positions again may be contrary to local ward voters.
I am inclined to think, but am not yet certain, that when the deadline for registering or withdrawing as a candidate passes (September 10), perhaps having so many candidates is NOT a good thing. There is always the possibility of vote-splitting, with results we have seen in the past where perhaps 20% or less of the voters decide who is chosen to represent them and the other 80% of the ward. Certainly not a clear mandate or vote of confidence!
Until we have a system of RANKED BALLOTS where people can clearly indicate their preferential order (first, second, etc) this problem won't be solved.
Until then, maybe ALL CANDIDATES should decide if they are in or out, if they have the support or not and if there is another candidates who would best represent their views on the local issues.
Still, until the final decide date, the more the "FRINGE" can contribute to healthy debate and brining up real local issues, the better it is for democracy in my view. Because...
DAVENPORT DESERVES BETTER !