Run in Toronto election 2010

Register as a candidate here’s how
My advice on why and how to run for for public office

(Opinion written for Town Crier Jan. 7)

I have a confession.
I don’t have the stomach to run for politics. Not that anyone, other than casual observers, has asked me.
People ask if I’d run as I have a passion for politics. I love writing about how issues impact people’s lives, the drama, the personalities and the elections. This is way better than reality TV.
Okay, so maybe you don’t share my news junkie mentality when it comes to politics. Or maybe you are more political than you realize …
Maybe, like my father, decades removed from his protest rally days, your city hall beef is you don’t want parking rules changed on your street or want to slow down vehicles from bombing down the road? Sometimes it is just one issue that makes us take notice of our government.
Ask people who have waited too long for a bus, driven over another pothole, fear crime in their community, had their garbage collection missed (remember the summer strike), their property taxes raised, are in need of social housing, subsidized daycare or are fighting to stop a development next door and you’ll get an earful of political commentary.
Sound familiar?
But the city’s 10-month election campaign makes it hard to spark public interest until closer to the vote Oct. 25.
However, in the first week of January some high profile candidates started registering and politicians announcing retirements or re-election plans.
Case Ootes he won’t run. Jane Pitfield is trying for a comeback. John Tory isn’t running for mayor. George Smitherman resigned as MPP to seek the
city’s top job.
And hey, there’s still time for you to gather up your $100 and register as a council candidate. Go to the city’s site to see the candidates already registered and check out the competition.
Now I’d like to offer some advice to any candidate running in the city’s election.
My counsel is based on eight years experience writing about municipal politics, interviewing candidates, following campaigns and
covering elections at all three levels of government.
Candidates should think of the campaign as a long job interview process where the media asks questions on behalf of the public, who essentially hire
candidates with their votes on election day.
This means candidates should be able to articulate why they are running, what skills they’d bring to the job, what issues they will fight for and
where they stand on key matters.
They need to be media friendly. This includes having a high resolution photo of themselves that can be emailed to media, a reliable contact number for interviews and (for those with the money) a campaign office, website, and press releases on key campaign issues and events.
Plus candidates need a public profile and this means using social media to network and raise their name recognition. A blog, website, twitter,
Facebook, YouTube and so on are all relatively inexpensive ways for candidates to get their message and face out there.
I think it is essential if candidates have some grassroots experience.
Ideally this would mean paid work or volunteering with community groups and having contacts with potential supporters and the very public candidates
plan to serve if elected. It is hard to convince voters you want to represent them when you have never fought along side them or for them on any issue.
The public needs confidence you can do the job.
Then knock on doors, attend events, hold meet and greets and do whatever it takes to shake hands, talk to people and ask for their vote.
For those running, I wish you luck. You have my respect for participating in the democratic process. And for the rest of us — please vote Oct. 25.


19 responses to “Run in Toronto election 2010

  1. Excellent idea about the voter contributing $25 and the city pitching in $75 direct to candidayes to level the field….
    However, consider this: A large segment of our society is poor-marginalized-low income, whatever you want to call it. I remember seeing StatsCan saying about 16% are living below the poverty line in our country.
    How do we include and encourage candidates for political office from this group? After all, it is supposed to be aboutr political representation?
    PS: I am on ODSP and running for city council in ward 18, How do I compete against the big machines like the Liberals and the NDP ?

    • Ken, it isn’t my idea. It is the city’s current election rebate system that provides up to 75% rebates on campaign donations ($75 back on a $100 donation for example).
      I agree it’s hard when you are poor, marginalized, etc to compete against and incumbent. In fact it’s hard if you aren’t poor to go up against a current popular councillor. And when the NDP or Liberals are lending support to local candidates (even without political parties at the city level) it is hard to compete. I don’t know the answer. In your case, there’s no incumbent running but name recognition still helps as people are looking to choose among a large crowd of candidates. And also, long time councillors such as Howard Moscoe and Joe Pantalone each ran (I believe) 3 times each before they were successful so it can take persistence.

  2. Kris:

    Great column and great responses to and from readers. I wanted to add my two cents if I may.
    The election period is from January 4, 2010 and election day is October 25, 2010. In my ward there are just under 22,000 households and by September 1, 2010 I will get a voters list. So I only have fifty odd days to make personal contact with 40,000 people. I can start to put up election signs so people will know my name in late Septemebr. But I have a spending limit of $34,000. On the other hand an incumbant has a staff of two or three people, an office budget of $53,000, a campaign spending limit of $34,000, access to the old voters list, and constituency data from the past four years. I almost forgot that the incumbant also has a salary directly related to doing their policy and constituency work. Now I don’t begrudge councillors getting paid to do their job right up until election day, or even getting the electoral benefit of having helped people by developing a dat base of contacts. But what would level the playing field just a smidge would be a change on two fronts.

    Change the election sign by-law to allow contenders to place election signs on lawns as a form of freedom of expression for the voting publc anytime.

    Allow the spending limit to rise to at least match the $53,000 incumbant advantage.

    I would love to hear any responses from you or your readers to these two ideas.

    Rob Davis

    • Rob,
      yes for candidates like you running in Eglinton-Lawrence’s Ward 15 against an incumbent councillor, the current rep has many advantages.
      I don’t think we should extend the period when election signs are put up.
      But I would like to add to the conversation two suggestions that councillors have been mentioning to me to see what you and others think.
      1. In New York city there’s an election system where the city (taxpayers) pay a base amount to all eligible candidates to finance their campaigns as long as they follow certain rules such as not raising funds from private sources. This is supposed to make it easier for candidates who aren’t as well known to have an equal footing financially to run a campaign.
      2. Moving away from the rebate system we have now where if you donate $100 to a candidate the city will give your $75 back a few months later. Instead, some councillors suggest that if a voter contributes $25 to a candidate the city would pitch in the $75 directly to the candidate. The idea is, it is easier to ask someone for $25 upfront than ask them for $100 and have them wait for a $75 rebate. With this new model, the candidate would still get the $100 ($75 from the city, $25 from the voter).
      What do you think?

  3. I know that Rob Ford has one. Look at his website.

    Click to access councillor_rob_fords_12_annual_BBQ.pdf

    Im not sure but I believe Shiner had one as well.

    • Nussy,
      thanks for the tip. Judging from the PDF you sent me and the pictures of Rob Ford’s event in 2007 it looks like a BBQ/Progressive Conservative fundraiser or event. There are tons of signs for John Tory (then PC Ontario leader), Tom Barlow and others. I will ask around if Coun. Shiner and other city councillors are having BBQs this summer. If nothing else it’s a chance to mix and mingle with people who are political minded and talk shop.

  4. BTW I hear Bob Ford puts out a great spread. May be worth the trip to his ward.

    • Nussy,
      In terms of the free BBQs believe it or not in eight years of city hall coverage, I have been to a lot of councillor events but no BBQs. Give me the heads up when some of them are and I will ask councillors to let me know and I’ll post the events here closer to summer.

  5. My point is that the incumbent can send out a mailing promoting themselves to all the people in the ward. That comes off thier office budget.

    I’m looking forward to all the free BBQ’s next summer. Perhaps I will see you there.

    • Nussy, You are right. Each councillor has a $53,100 annual office budget for things like newsletters that are mailed out to constituents, for ads in newspapers (including the Town Crier where I work) a website, etc.

  6. Here I am in Willowdale. Ralph Shiner has been on council for years. As of this moment I don’t know if he will run again. I know it’s still early.

    Is a city supposed to be run like the Provincial or Federal Parliament? Should there be a block of councilors blindly following the Mayor no matter what? Should we have a council that simply rubber stamps whatever the executive committee decides on? Should we have a council that disregards the city Lawyers advice and pay for court costs for someone that was not even on council when he was sued? Should we have a Mayor that simply won’t appoint anyone on the executive committee that is not in his party? Or former party in Millers case.

    Doe’s a person running for office have a chance against an incumbent without that mailing list the incumbent uses to promote themselves? (At our expense I must add.)

    I want democracy plain and simple. Not a bunch of sheep following the leader. No Party politics.

    • Nussy,
      yes Coun David Shiner has typically registered late in 2003 and 2006 elections. He told my colleague Karolyn Coorsh in October he planned to stay in municipal politics. I am very interested to see what happens in Willowdale.

    • Nussy,
      The city is supposed to be non-partisan but it’s not. There’s no official party system and there are “free votes” where people vote their conscious not based on how the mayor or their colleagues persuade them.
      I understand you want no party politics, but based on any elected mayor and the ideologies of councillors there is a natural right, left split when it comes to their ideologies ie Rob Ford is right and Paula Fletcher is left. Plus some of them are card carrying members of political parties.
      That said, there are times when there’s a unanimous vote and council comes together behind an issue or councillors don’t vote along “party” or ideological lines but align with colleagues based on believing in a policy.

      After the City of Toronto Act was revised it allowed the mayor to appoint the chairs of committees who then sit on his executive as well as hire and fire the city manager. So our mayor got more power. Since the mayor has one vote on the 45-member council, it makes some sense that he or she has some power to steer the city agenda. Afterall the mayor is voted in by more people than the Premier or Prime Minister as the mayor is elected directly across the city not in one riding the way the PM or Premier are.

    • Nussy,
      and to your point about incumbents.
      You are right they do have an advantage.
      Incumbents have voters’ list from previous elections at their disposal plus mailing lists and a database of constituents that they’ve built up over the years.
      But I understand all candidates not just incumbents have access to voters’/mailing list. Check to the city’s election site. I looked up the candidate’s guide and on page 55 and 57 it states as of Sept. 1/10 all registered candidates get one free copy of a voters’ list, a ward map and a preliminary list of voting locations.

  7. Nussy,
    Yes and no.
    If we are complacent and the people we vote for are complacent then we will definitely get the status quo.
    However if what we have doesn’t work this doesn’t necessarily mean we vote in a whole new council. Maybe the new crop will be less qualified, less able to implement a vision of the city that leads to improvements.
    New doesn’t always = better.
    We, voters, need to decide what’s important and vote for candidates who have the capabilities and commitment to deliver. But we need to think about what kind of city we want and what we are willing to sacrifice to get it: higher taxes, selling off city assets, less service but lower taxes?
    Both some new faces and some old faces may deserve our votes.

  8. The alternative is maintain the status quo.

  9. Pingback: Scheuer: Run In Toronto Election 2010 | Toronto Election News

  10. I agree with most of what you said. The most important part of the equation is the voter. Very hard to get thier attention. People just don’t care because they have been screwed so often.

    • Nussy, no doubt people are quite cynical, disillusioned, disenfranchised when it comes to politicians and voting. I may be optimistic but I have met many hard working and well meaning politicians who have done a lot of community work and have a dedication to public service. Also people like you who are very engaged in politics and perhaps if convinced to run may also want to make a difference. So I continue to believe it is worth voting and paying attention to politics. What is the alternative?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s