The voting period is well underway in this year’s municipal election. For weeks, this newspaper has been featuring candidates and some of the priorities they feel are most important to their communities. Although the West End has largely acclaimed its councils, voters in eastern and central Manitoulin have important decisions to make about who will help guide the future of their municipalities.
It’s far from an easy choice. Candidates in Assiginack, for instance, have to choose between five mayoral candidates and nine council candidates. With four council seats and one mayor, that means nine individuals will be walking away from this election without seats at their council table.
That demands an important question: how does one cut through the rhetoric, see candidates for who they are and vote for the best possible person?
How you feel about a politician likely comes down to the strategies they use to deliver their messages.
A voter who is family-minded will be interested in a candidate who speaks openly about their own family life and promises positive changes for families in their area.
Another voter who is struggling to earn a living might lean more towards the candidate who vows to not increase taxes.
The great challenge in small communities, such as ours on Manitoulin, lies within the personal connections between candidates and voters.
Populist techniques of name-calling and personal attacks can be much more effective in these places, especially against unpopular community members. The problem with populism is its ability to distract voters from seeing the truth about candidates through quick catchphrases and pandering to the ‘common’ person. It can be easily used to hide personal agendas or even candidates having little-to-no platform at all. Buck-a-beer, anyone?
Fortunately, this tends not to be a typical electoral strategy on Manitoulin Island where civility is usually the watchword.
Some might be inclined to vote for someone merely because they live across the street from them, they play euchre with a candidate’s spouse or they work in the same organization.
Voting against a friend or colleague could pose a social risk but unless one actively walks around town showing off one’s ballot, nobody will know for whom you have voted because ballots are confidential in our democratic system.
Politicians may work tirelessly to appeal to your emotions, but remember: you always have the final say in your secret vote. Just because a candidate gets the loudest applause and cheers at a debate does not mean they will properly govern your municipality. They need to have a well-thought-out plan to move their region towards the future.
It is safe to presume the people who get elected will be in their seats for a minimum of four years, unless something should happen during the term. If a candidate is acting in a shady manner to get elected, you can expect the same behaviour to continue for the duration of their term. Again, this is not usual in Island municipal elections.
You have the power to elect the best possible candidates this election. Find out who is running, learn as much as you can about them and try to speak with as many candidates as possible, especially the ones who seem to be unpopular. You might still disapprove of their ideas but you will at least understand why you feel that way, rather than blindly following what somebody wants you to believe.
This election, read up on your choices and help make an informed decision for your community. Vote with your head, not with your heart.