Waters: In defence of ‘frivolous’ candidates

In a democracy, where anyone can run for office, there are no frivolous candidates, just people you don't want to vote for.

With a civic election around the corner, this tends to be the time you hear people complain about “frivolous” political candidates.

I’m not sure what that means.

In a democracy, just like the right—albeit irresponsible—not to vote, everyone also has the right to run for public office.

As long as they meet the criteria set out, such as having the required number of nominators and enough money to pay the required fee, they’re good to go. The criteria does not, however, specify that they be qualified for the office they are seeking. That decision is made made by the voters.

These candidates, after all, just like MPs and MLAs, are the public’s representatives, They are not, and should not be expected to be, experts in every field they are ultimately responsible for. City’s have employees for that, folks who are supposed to know all about roads, utilities, infrastructure, recreation, programming and finance. The elected folks have to rely on them even though the buck stops with the folks who face the ultimate job review every four years.

But to get elected in the first place, candidates have to convince enough voters they are the right choice. And it should not be a popularity contest. If you want to be elected, you should bring something to the table.

With 31 candidates running for the eight available councillor positions in Kelowna and another eight wanting to be mayor, as well as the numerous candidates seeking councillor and mayor positions in Lake Country, Peachland and West Kelowna, as well as folks vying for regional district directorships and board of education trusteeships, that’s a lot of of people who need to make their case. And many won’t.

But it’s also up to voters to do some work. Voting for someone is like agreeing to employ them for the next four years. And as government like to say, it’s your tax dollars at work. So find out what  makes the candidate you want to vote for worth your vote. If they want to make cuts, have they any experience doing that in private industry? If they want cut taxes, what spending and services would they jettison to make the books balance? Will they represent you or represent the city to you? Short of being just another name on the ballot, why does any given candidate deserve your support?

And that goes for incumbents too. Have they lived up to the promises they made three years ago? In many ways it’s easier to decide when you’ve seen someone perform, and lived with the result of that performance, for the last few years.

Promises are easy to make at this time of year. So be skeptical. The wrong choice could result in four years of regret.

As for the term “frivolous” when it comes to candidates, that is most often used by people already in office and don’t like being challenged by every Tom, Dick and Harriet. To them, there’s a simple answer. Live with it.

Concentrate on what you can do not what someone else can’t. After all, every successful candidate was a newcomer at one point.

And, maybe, they were thought of as frivolous by the people in office at that time.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.