Published in The Daily News, Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008
The idea of creating a ward system for Kamloops elections has been broached during this campaign, and I’m hear to advise against any such notion.
I’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s first touch on the train wreck that overcame mayoral candidate Murphy Kennedy’s campaign this week.
The split between Kennedy and his campaign manager, Chad Moats, shouldn’t be all that surprising. The two teamed up via the Internet, which seems like a strange way for a candidate and his campaign manager to get together.
It’s absolutely key that the candidate and campaign manager are on the same wave length, and to do that they need to have had some experience with one another. Even when they’re the best of friends, things don’t always work out.
For example, when Terry Lake ran John O’Fee’s attempt at federal politics as a Liberal a few years ago, they didn’t always see eye to eye on how the campaign should be run. Lake wanted O’Fee to be in certain places at certain times; O’Fee sometimes figured his time was better spent elsewhere.
And they were good friends. You can imagine the potential for disagreement between a candidate and manager who barely knew each other. As it turned out, time management was at the root of the political divorce between Kennedy and Moats.
But it may have just been the last straw. Moats seems to have had very strong ideas about how Kennedy should go about running for mayor, and did a lot of writing on Kennedy’s policies. In fact, a lot of the policies came straight from Moats rather than Kennedy.
Reporters covering Kennedy say Moats had a tendency to do half the talking when the candidate was one on one with reporters, as though the roles were reversed.
What finally did it was Moats’ decision to insist that reporters wanting to talk to Kennedy make appointments through Moats.
The campaign chief fired off an e-mail to media on Monday informing them Kennedy “will not be available to the media, immediately. . . . We thank you for your cooperation and respect for Murphy’s need to campaign before commenting to the media.”
The media did not thank Moats, nor did they feel much like cooperating. I spoke to Moats about it on the phone, and let him know that putting himself between his candidate and the media was not a good idea. We talked about it for a few minutes, and I concluded by saying, “I understand. I disagree, but I understand.”
I figure, if a candidate or his campaign manager is going to do something stupid, that’s up to them and there’s no point getting all bent out of shape about it. I’m certain Moats did it with the best of intentions for his candidate.
Sandy Heimlich-Hall of TV7 took another approach. In an exchange of emails with Moats, she candidly told him what she thought.
“We aren’t dealing with the Prime Minister here,” she told him. “We are dealing with a Mayoralty candidate. . . . I tell you, it’s a huge mistake to shun the media.”
“I don’t understand why you have take (sic) such an aggressive manner in dealing with this situation,” replied Moats.
“You aren’t getting it,” Heimlich-Hall wrote back, pointing out that an attempt to contact Kennedy through Moats had already failed. Further, she said, her newsroom was not prepared to go along.
“This request not to contact Mr. Kennedy except through a representative is an extremely bad sign. It makes one wonder what kind of Mayor he might make.”
After which Moats threw in the towel and announced Wednesday he was no longer Kennedy’s manager. “Sandy Hall at CFJC reacted like a spoiled child,” he said.
And, a hint that Moats and Kennedy were at odds over the access-to-media strategy: “Murphy decided that his time was better spent dealing with the processes of the campaign and not campaigning.” To this he added a parting shot on his blog, in much the same vein.
That left Kennedy to make the best of it, telling the media he was used to dealing with them and had not intended to cut them off.
In the interests of informative debate and a good campaign, let us hope Kennedy can get things back on track and provide us with a good comparison between him and the other two candidates.
Now then, about the ward system, an issue that, yes, Chad Moats raised a few weeks ago. The supposed strength of the ward system is that it provides residents with a more direct voice at City Hall. A side benefit is that it would increase voter turnout.
Ward systems can work well. Ten years ago, a report from Simon Fraser University’s institute of governance studies recommended that the largest B.C. cities be forced to adopt ward systems.
There was nothing wrong with the report, but it didn’t deal with smaller cities like Kamloops, where wards would create more problems than they would solve.
In a city like ours, the much smaller population base of a ward would dilute the choice of candidates in some cases. Some wards would have high participation, some would be very weak.
Indeed, Kamloops once had a ward system following amalgamation in the early seventies, and it was scrapped in favour of the at-large system we have today.
All councillors should work on behalf of all parts of the city, and we should be able to vote for all members of council, not just one.
Access isn’t an issue — people have no trouble getting hold of a City councillor when they want one. Nor the mayor, for that matter.
The ward system is a concept, like the Single Transferable Vote, that looks good on paper but isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. At least not for Kamloops.