Make Your Own Choices This November
Here are the speaking notes from my presentation to a gathering of West Vancouver electors this morning about West Vancouver Citizens For Good Government (WVCGG) and the list of Council candidates which they’ve endorsed. These comments are not an exact transcript – they represent the structure, spirit, and intent of my remarks. I’ve made minor edits to the text prior to posting.
- Introduce self.
- What, in your view, is the biggest concern with local municipal elections?
- prompt for low civic engagement and low voter participation
- In 2011, only 23.7% of eligible voters in West Vancouver cast a ballot for councillors.
- With such low turnouts, it is helpful to have individuals and groups who support civic engagement and who try their best to increase voter participation.
- People like this morning’s host. There is one group in West Van in particular which plays a central role in local elections. Do you know which group that is?
- prompt for WVCGG
- When I say West Vancouver Citizens for Good Government, what’s your impression of how many people are involved with the group?
- According to the last census of 2011, West Vancouver has a population of about 43,000 people. According to information about the last election, also 2011, there were 30,754 eligible electors in West Vancouver.
- How many members do you think there are in WVCGG?
- At the October 22 meeting to endorse candidates, the Board of Directors — 16 people — put forward their recommendation and 140 members voted. That’s less than .5% of eligible electors.
- What are the challenges you see with this situation?
- So what is WVCGG?
- founded 1972
- their info says they are a “non-profit, non-partisan, and non-issue community group”.
- interest in ensuring that qualified individuals run for office and to increase voter engagement
- they interview candidates – but don’t post the questions they ask and deliberations are secret
- they hold a public all candidates meeting open to all West Van voters which is great
- and they endorse candidates – but they don’t say why
- once they’ve endorsed candidates, they accept funds from each and with that money conduct extensive advertising which includes a direct mail drop to each residence, something out of the reach of individual candidates — unless they decide to spend some serious money
- You can start to see why this might be a bit of a problem. Here’s the bigger issue.
- At the WVCGG endorsement meeting, the Board of Directors presents its recommendations prior to members voting. In essence what this does is create a situation where the members are voting on the Board of Directors recommended slate and not voting on the individual candidates.
- As former school Trustee Barry Lindahl says — Barry was voted for by the members despite not being put forward as a selection of the Board but that’s rare and proves the exception not the rule — as Barry says, the WVCGG process essentially becomes not about who is best, but who is blessed.
- When I ran in 2011, I was endorsed by WVCGG and I also remember writing a letter in support of them to the North Shore News. But I cannot support the list of endorsed candidates this year although I may support some of the individual candidates on the list because the list of endorsed candidates is very troubling to me.
- Here’s why?
- out of 6 endorsements for council only one is female this is despite the fact that there are more women living in West Van than men. 53% of residents are female and 47% are male according to the 2011 StatsCan figures.
- That’s not representative.
- But let’s say you don’t see that as an issue. Let’s put gender aside. What about incumbency? That’s usually an edge in municipal elections but there were two incumbents who weren’t endorsed.
- Incumbency ought not to be a guarantee, but here’s the thing. The only two incumbents who were not endorsed were the two incumbent female councillors, Mary Ann Booth and Nora Gambioli.
- WVCGG chose to endorse three first-time candidates — with relatively little experience of council — over the two incumbent female candidates.
- That doesn’t sit right with me. Elections ought to be about the best, not the blessed, especially not those blessed by a small group with undue influence no matter how well intentioned.
- I urge you to assess each candidate on your own terms and not someone else’s, when you vote this November.
- Thank You. Questions?
For more information on West Vancouver City Government, click here.
I’m confused as to whether you’re advocating for citizens to vote their own conscience or if you want us to vote for women simply because they’re women. You quite clearly make both cases, which seems to muddy the message.
I’ve also noticed the uniform ethnicity of nearly all the candidates, which I’m sure must alarm you, considering your knowledge of the latest census. Didn’t factor into your speech, however. Perhaps there was something a tad odious about the thought of reducing candidates to these types of categories. Not so when it comes to sex, apparently.
Incumbency is a funny thing; it may represent experience but it certainly doesn’t guarantee a positive experience. The current President of the US was originally elected despite the objections you’ve raised in support of the incumbents here. People the world over seemed happy about it, at least at the time.
Perhaps take a moment to highlight the accomplishments of the candidates next time you campaign for them, instead of simply defining them by which washroom they use.
Thank you Joe for your comment and some very important points which you’ve raised.
I’m advocating for citizens to vote their own conscience.
I’m also advocating for citizens to consider voting for female candidates — not solely on their gender but in consideration of their skills, talents, and qualifications, too — because I do believe that a balance of men and women on Council will be more representative of our community.
As to the ethnicity of candidates, I do think that we should have broader representation on Council given the changing nature of the demographics here, but that is dependent on people putting their names forward to run. Again, selecting a candidate is based on weighing a range of factors and it should never be based on the fact that they simply fit one category or another (albeit our party system at the provincial and federal levels in fact operates that way based on party affiliation).
As I said, incumbency should never be an automatic guarantee of reelection. In this case, I feel that Mary Ann Booth and Nora Gambioli have worked diligently on behalf of this community and they merit serious consideration as candidates. Someone else may not view them as among the best candidates — that’s their choice.
As to the accomplishments of the incumbent candidates, the information is readily available on their websites and I provided links to both.
The other women running for Council are Joanna Baxter (endorsed by WVCGG), Christine Cassidy, Terry Platt, and Carolanne Reynolds and I hope that West Vancouver electors will review and evaluate their resumes as well as their campaign materials prior to finalizing their voting decision.
My intent is to highlight what I see as shortcomings in the endorsement process of the WVCGG and to ask voters to look beyond the list which will be heavily promoted as the election draws nearer.
Again, thanks for taking the time to read my post and for taking the time to write.