The News has received several phone calls and comments from Saanich residents in recent weeks about their frustration in attempting to get a hold of some candidates.
While most of the District’s 16 candidates are readily available for small talk before and after all-candidates meetings, many elderly residents in particular aren’t able to attend for a variety of reasons.
Campaign signs and candidate pamphlets often point to their websites for any in-depth explanations of their platforms. Websites are also the first recommended point of contact by most candidates for residents who want to get in touch with them.
But it appears candidates are overlooking the fact (as newspaper editors sometimes have a tendency to do) that many elderly residents don’t have ready access to a computer.
They’re not privy to social media debates on electoral matters; they don’t have mobile phones; some fail to read anything not delivered directly to their mailbox by a Canada Post carrier or visiting friend.
The information contained on some candidate handouts, as one caller put it, “leaves a lot to be desired.” Broad strokes and mission statements fail to connect with many residents who feel they’re being presented with a lack of clear, actionable goals from candidates.
As another reader put it: “People aren’t interested in the fact that you like Saanich. We don’t need to know that. Let us know what you’re going to do for us.”
Accusations arose on Monday from mayoral candidate Richard Atwell, who said Mayor Frank Leonard and incumbent councillors had been organizing visits to seniors homes, and that “where a quorum of incumbent councillors are present may constitute an official off-the-record council meeting.”
Regardless of whether or not Atwell’s concerns are valid (and they likely aren’t), the effort to get out into a community and meet residents is fundamental, not just during an election period but moving into the next four years as well. (Atwell is actively reaching out to seniors homes as well, for the record.)
Whether or not some incumbents want to admit it, open government and accessible public representatives are a significant issue for voters in this election. Many will be swayed by both the promise and the follow-through of responsive representatives. Not an easy feat for a job that doesn’t pay a living wage (apart from the mayor’s $93,000 salary), but fundamental to the growing cynicism across all age groups towards our sluggish public institutions.