An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
A COUPLE of important points came out in one of the last all-candidates’ forums, specifically the one for Kamloops-North Thompson hopefuls held at the Brock Activity Centre.
One was obvious — in a room that holds about 150 people, 50 chairs were filled, including the candidates, volunteers and a few media.
Some of the forums drew bigger crowds than others of course, but there’s a general impression that the numbers have been down. The big media-sponsored forum at the TRU Grand Hall, for example, drew roughly half the usual number.
On the other hand, the turnout for advance voting has been good. Usually that’s a positive sign for turnout on voting day, but the comparative lack of interest at the forums is worrisome.
There are all kinds of ideas on how to improve turnout, but the very fact we have to wrack our brains for ways to entice voters to exercise their democratic privilege is troublesome.
Another excellent point that was made at the Brock forum was that when we go to vote, we should think not only about party policies but about the style the MLA will bring to constituency work.
The way in which MLAs respond to the concerns of constituents is as important as the work they do in Victoria when the Ledge is in session. If elected, will the candidate continue the outreach he or she cultivated during the campaign period?
Will he or she knock on doors between elections? Answer concerns promptly? Host public input sessions? Make sure constituents have an opportunity to meet with the MLA, not simply talk on the phone, or relay messages through staff? Demonstrate patience with constituents who disagree with the MLA on solutions?
Those kinds of questions are tougher to answer than policy planks, especially when a candidate is lesser known before the election. Previous community work is a good indication, though. Involvement in community groups reflects not only commitment but the areas of specific interest to the candidate.
These are things to carefully consider. When we go into the voting booth, it’s not just about a specific axe we may have to grind, or about a single policy — it’s about choosing someone who is well-rounded, who is sincere, and who will represent the riding well.