The problem with democracy at the municipal level is that it’s messy. But that’s also its beauty.
In smaller cities, like Kelowna, there generally are no slates or party politics when it comes to civic elections.
Sure, the odd group may get together and announce it’s supporting a candidate or four, but that’s not a slate, it’s just a group’s preference.
A slate requires, at minimum, that the candidates in question know they are running together and selling themselves to the voters that way.
When was the last time that happened in Kelowna?
A few amalgamation supporters tried it in West Kelowna four years ago and it failed miserably.
Here, civic elections are open to anyone with $100 to put down as a deposit and 25 friends willing to sign the nomination papers.
And it seems there are plenty of people who think they fit that bill in Kelowna this year.
Yesterday, on the eve of the 10-day official nomination period for the Nov. 19 election, 56 people were considering a run for the eight councillor positions and 11 were interested enough in being mayor that they picked up nomination packages.
Now, if history holds true, 10 to 12 of those paper-pickers will not be there when it comes time to vote. But the strong interest in a run for public office can only be seen as healthy.
While some may decry the number of “no names” on the list and call them pipe dreamers, I disagree.
Even the most popular politicians had to start sometime. The more voices heard in the public discourse that is a civic election, the better.
Sure, some may be single-interest candidates who bring little else to the table. And the more people that run—given the traditionally low voter turnout—the fewer the votes needed to win a seat. But that’s price we pay for making our elections open to all.
Municipal politicians make a difference to people’s lives.
The proof is no farther away than the tap in your kitchen, the toilet in your bathroom, the garbage can at your curb or the road it sits on.
The decisions they make at the council table affect your day-to-day life unlike their provincial or federal colleagues.
So rather than write off the large number of potential candidates as the hindrance or the political equivalent of white noise, consider the contribution they are making to the system we hold so dear.
We may not agree with their stance on a particular issue, but at least they are getting involved.
And given the pitiful turnout by voters in the last few civic elections, that a lot more than can be said for a majority of this city’s residents.
Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.