EDITORIAL: B.C. municipalities should up election outreach

B.C. local governments should find a way to mail out one cohesive package of candidate information before election

For the past couple of weeks, the election sign wars in Saanich seem to have been waged primarily along major road arteries like Blanshard Street, Quadra Street, McKenzie Avenue, Royal Oak Drive and West Saanich Road.

This past weekend, however, mayoral and council candidates have emptied their signage silos and planted roadside advertising along virtually every public boulevard and common area in the District. (Even the anti-establishment mayoral candidate David Shebib has a few “MUTED” signs sprinkled across the District.)

The proliferation of election signage is expected in any political race. Individual municipalities have their own rules for the placement of such signs on public property, mostly relating to hindrances to public safety. ElectionsBC prohibits the placement of election signs within 100 metres of a district elections office or a polling place when voting is being conducted.

Throughout B.C. municipalities, however, mostly anything goes.

It’s debatable how much of an effect election signs have on the voting public, but what does impact voting is the availability of reliable candidate information.

Door-knocking by candidates is great, as are mail-outs that detail platforms. But here’s where the municipality needs to step in. Instead of putting the onus on candidates to drain their war chests for snail mail, the District should have a bylaw that allows one mass mailout of candidate information – at the municipality’s expense. Keep it to one standard, double-sided page per candidate and allow them to list their platforms and ideas on an equal playing field.

It’s hard enough to raise the necessary money for an election race as an incumbent, not to mention as a new challenger. One easy way to lower the financial barrier is to allot candidates a one-time mail-out package that arrives at doorsteps as a cohesive election package.

Right now, the municipality simply lists candidates on its website with nothing more than links to social media and homepages. Inclusion is about more than doing the basics. And while there may be hindrances in the Local Government Act, perhaps the next Saanich council can create a bylaw that aims to help all future candidates.