COLUMN: We deserve more than the party line

Civic politicians too often step up… only to fade into the background, writes Lance Peverley

For those eyeing this fall’s civic election as the right time to take your first steps into the political minefield, a word of caution.

One wrong move, one clumsily worded statement and – boom – the party’s over for any hope of being elected by a majority of voters.

Or so it might seem.

Truth is, however, voters have short attention spans, something seasoned politicians learned long ago and are likely using to their advantage in the weeks leading up to election day Oct. 20.

To those voters who complain about too high taxes or too much development or too few amenities or, simply, too many poor decisions, the statespeople will no doubt find a way to convince us that they are now part of the solution, regardless of whether they were the problem.

Curiously, one issue that rises in both Surrey and White Rock this time around – the first election in a long four years – is politicians’ obvious dependence on party affiliations. Some voters are claiming they will no longer vote for a slate at the local level, presumably having grown disenchanted with council majorities in a system that allowed elected officials to fade into the background soon after the sun set on Nov. 15, 2014.

Whether this no-slate vote takes hold remains to be seen; regardless, individuals within any given electoral organization would be wise to distinguish themselves from their running mates.

After all, even if Surrey’s ruling party hadn’t fractured itself repeatedly in recent weeks – after having swept two civic elections – past election-day numbers clearly showed a difference in popularity between its candidates. In White Rock, too, members of the council-majority coalition received different numbers of votes.

Individual politicians should be asking themselves why. Was it something they said? Perhaps.

In most cases, it was more likely something they didn’t say.

In this literal ‘popularity contest’ that is our voting system, candidates who offer little beyond their party or platforms might just find themselves virtual after-thoughts come voting day.

Those who campaign as independents, too, might ask whether their supporters from the build-up are still convinced enough to make the trek to the voting booth, pencil in hand, to make the appropriate mark.

The thing is, we voters know that most politicians start off with good intentions, but few seem to sustain the energy needed to actually effect change.

And if effecting change isn’t the goal, why are they there? If they’re simply one of nine (Surrey) or seven (White Rock) votes, and they fail to convince the majority on any given issue, why did they bother, other than to receive their now-hefty remuneration package?

I don’t mean to get too down on those who have stepped up in the past, only to fade into the background. But to this year’s crop of successful politician, I urge – I plead – that they make their time in office count. Because they’ll only have so much time to make a difference, then – boom – it’s over.

Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.

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