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EDITORIAL: Creating a conversation for election candidates

Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor

The floodgates have opened up and aspiring municipal politicians are coming out from hiding to offer their names for office.

It's a magical time in our four-year cycle when we see individuals wear their political goals on their sleeves and step into a ring that must be the extremes of both gratifying and mind-numbing.

Offering yourself for office takes plenty of guts and should be welcomed in every community of every size, even if some are doing it for the wrong reasons.

We've compiled a few observations — tips if you will — for those taking on the challenge of vying for a seat on municipal council, a place where there's no hiding behind political stripes — or regular stays in St. John's or Ottawa — where politicians can often find reprieve from the demands of the hungry constituency.

First off, for those who want to be elected, why not try being nice to people? Smile at strangers and stop to talk to people whose ideals and philosophies exist in a different universe than your own. This may seem to be a superficial solution, but if you're going to be effective in the job you'll need some basic interpersonal skills. Ignoring people when they greet you is the wrong approach.

You also need to do this for the right reasons, and they must be unselfish. If you're offering yourself up for office because you want to "stick it" to the crowd that's elected now, then please keep your name off the ballot. If you're driven by vendetta, then do everyone a favour and throw your support behind a candidate with better intentions. Also, if you're going after a seat on council to set yourself up for a run provincially or federally, people will see through you.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with using your experience for greater things, but keep your focus local and grounded. Please.

Another reason to not run for council is because you want your political party to have a voice around the council table. Partisan politics should not play into decisions in the council chamber. They do, and everyone knows they do, but this doesn't make it right. And when councillors or mayors are blatantly doing so, they should be shamed around the table and entire community for doing so.

Albeit a little self-serving, it's not a good idea for candidates to ignore media requests for interviews or information. Journalists, better than anyone, get the word out, have an audience and a reach that surpasses that of all candidates. They look for stories and information that may not jive with candidates' own communications plans. As candidates, you control your own public relations, but rarely is it what a journalist is looking for. Keep that in mind and the tough pill of "What happened to my press release?" may go down a little smoother.

When running, it's also a good idea to do some research on what falls under a community's jurisdiction. Planning health-care reform or changes to the EI system are not actions a municipal politician can realize, while lobbying for the same is possible.

Also, empty promises will come back to bite you. Be realistic in your expectations and do your homework on what avenues of change can be delivered.

An informed candidate is a better one.

Good luck.
 

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