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Don't Pull Down Our Community for Political Gain

This is a non-partisan column; it is as non-partisan as a column about political elections can be.  There will be those who read this column and believe that it is a political attack against a political candidate, but it is interesting to note that different people will believe it is an attack on a different political candidate.

Having now been suitably cryptic, I will add some explanation. 

2011 will be the year of two elections in Ontario.  It doesn’t take a psychic to know that this spring the sitting Conservative party will call an election, or an election will be forced, because of the concurrent minority governments, by one of the opposition parties.  The provincial government has set a date of October 6, 2011 – so two elections in 8 months.

All parties on both levels of government are in full election mode, I had to opportunity to meet with three Ministers in one week, a sure sign that something is going on.  The federal parties have their candidates already chosen and they are each actively campaigning and building up their war-chests for the imminent election call.  The provincial candidates, I do not think, are all chosen yet, but I know for a fact that the searches are either continuing or soon to be done.

This leads us to the pre-election and election campaigns that are bubbling up all around us.  The candidates, if in office presently, will seek to show strong support for their actions and demonstrate that their parties are the best to continue to lead the country or province, and the riding.  Those candidates not in power will attempt to demonstrate that the party in power has failed in its approach and that they would be the best to serve their community.

This is where an uneasy coming together of similar but competing interests arises.  Recently our community appeared on the front page portrayed as a depressed and sad community, while a shadow minister rode through our industrial areas stopping at empty buildings.  This portrayal was unfair, unjustified and damaging to the community. 

I hate negative advertising in political campaigns; we see it all the time as one party attempts to undermine the integrity and even the very Canadianism of another party leader.  Negative advertising does little more than polarize established opinion, or sway the opinions of the undecided for as long as the next media event or the next poll.  Negative advertising generates a soft, superficial response to an issue, and while its benefit might disappear as fast as the sun burns off the morning fog, the perception might hang on like a bad smell.

Negative advertising and campaigning on the local level can be very detrimental. Local candidates for higher levels of office are trying to match federal and provincial issues to local voters.  Being negative and pointing out real or perceived failings is an easy approach.  I would like to suggest however, that a different approach would be of more value to the voters, and it would create a positive and effective discussion within the community.

Instead of focussing on what has happened economically in our community (the result of a global recession that has hit many communities around us just as hard), focus on what you are going to do to make a difference.  Instead of repeating the problem to everyone who already knows, offer unique and innovative solutions.

Stay within the area that is relevant to the level of government that you are campaigning to represent.  Economic development is an area that is under municipal jurisdiction, there are aspects where we cross paths with the other levels of government, but they are few and far between.

In the last municipal election campaign, I suggested that we needed to move toward becoming a 21st century city and that we needed to reinvent our economy – how would you as a candidate help us to achieve these goals?

Where do you see the growth opportunities?  How would you represent the interests of our community to the legislatures to which you are elected?  How would you make the interface with municipal government relevant and beneficial to our future?  And finally, the status quo is not an option, what do you offer that will make a difference.

By way of advice: present change and innovative planning; offer solutions while not just repeating the problems; don’t point the finger at another level of government to build your case; stay in the jurisdiction relevant to your campaign; in your efforts to win, don’t pull down our community.