Only serious candidates, please

Every three years, in the lead-up to another civic election, I think to myself: it’s got to be easier than this.

Every three years, in the lead-up to another civic election, I think to myself: it’s got to be easier than this.

My nagging suspicion rang loudest on a recent, rainy Tuesday night. I was taking in an all-candidates meeting at my local community centre, not as a reporter for the Victoria News but as a citizen and voter.

The event was set up like a trade show. With 20 council candidates there was no way to host a meaningful moderated debate. Over the course of an hour, I’d managed to make contact with about eight candidates and weigh in on a couple of meaty issues with no more than three.

It hardly sufficed to inform my vote, and yet, it was more effort than most voters make.

As a reporter, the problem is even worse. There’s no time or space to give all candidates a proper, critical profile. At the same time, there’s no justifiable way of interviewing only the “serious” candidates. So instead, we give equal opportunity to all, by printing their platforms in a soundbite.

Add to the ballot 16 school board trustees and the choices are overwhelming. The result is a pitiful 26.4 per cent voter turnout among City of Victoria voters.

Province wide, the average isn’t much better, at 29.5 per cent. Within Greater Victoria, turnout ranged from a pitiful 13.9 per cent in Langford to a high of 48.8 per cent in Metchosin.

It’s clearly time to give some serious thought to improving turnout, while the foibles of the election process are still fresh in our mind.

There are lots of ideas about how to make the process easier and more engaging.

I think weeding out unmotivated candidates is the most important step.

It always amazes me to see candidates file nomination papers who have little to no community experience. I’m talking about the ones with some vague notion for change, but no political, volunteer or leadership experience that proves they can get the job done.

In this past election, Victoria had one candidate who spent the entire campaign period on the road. Another couldn’t take the time to fill out surveys on his platform — a time-consuming but critical way to reach voters.

The city took the first step in raising the bar when it upped its requirements to run in the election. Candidates now need to be nominated by 25, rather than two people. I think the requirement could be much higher still. A candidate with deep roots in the community should have no trouble gathering 100 signatures.

Another idea is capping donations to election campaigns. Unsuccessful candidates often complain they didn’t get elected because they didn’t have the money. Limiting donations to $1,000 (or some measured amount) is a good way to ensure anyone running an expensive campaign is doing so with the support of hundreds of small donations rather than a few big ones.

A ward system is another idea for the region’s most populous municipalities.

Imagine the City of Victoria split into four wards, with residents in each ward voting for two representatives.

The city once had wards, back in the late 1800s. It may be time to revisit the merits of a system where voters choose between a smaller pool of candidates vying to represent their specific interests on council.

There are also ways to make voting easier.

For instance, Oak Bay introduced mail-in ballots, but only 34 were mailed in. Victoria has also given it a try, with better results.

Is electronic voting next?

It’s an idea bandied about by councillors and mayors in many Greater Victoria municipalities, and one which helped increase voter turnout from 30 to 38 per cent in Markham, Ont.

The election may just be over but we can’t wait to start talking about changing the system.

Vancouver learned this lesson the hard way. Its city council embraced electronic voting in May — too late for the province to accommodate the request in time for last Saturday’s election.

Now is the time for municipal governments to launch public discussion on election reform, before it’s too late to make changes for the 2014 election.

Roszan Holmen reports for the

Victoria News.

rholmen@vicnews.com.

Just Posted

Remember Spunky? Santa came out to Sidney to check on him

Red-tailed Hawk made headlines last year after being stolen, raised by eagles

MISSING: 59-year-old Pamela Fletcher

Fletcher was last seen in the area near Royal Jubilee Hospital on Dec. 10

Mainroad South Island reminds drivers to keep them in the loop

Call the hotlines for concerns on local provincial highways

Hockey gear stolen from visiting team in Victoria

Banff midget team reported missing equipment on Dec. 14

Custom motorcycle and wood cutter stolen from Sooke motorcycle shop

2006 Husqvarna motorcycle and 2-ton log splitter taken from outbuilding

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

POLL: Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

The rain Vancouver Island is famous for is coming down in buckets,… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 11, 2018

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Woman guilty of impaired driving in death of Vancouver Island pedestrian

Man in his 70s killed in 2016 Courtenay multi-vehicle incident

Most Read