Independent candidates run against voter apathy

On Friday evening May 28 I spent an interesting evening attending an “open house” run by Redmond Wissenberger – Candidate for City Council – Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park. Redmond is running against a long-time incumbent, Bill Saundercook.

Redmond delivered an interesting, motivating presentation, which was followed by a Q and A session.  He is energetic, knowledgeable, eager to learn more, and above all else – Redmond wants to do a good job for the residents of Ward 13. Redmond is neither an incumbent nor backed by a political party.

There are three categories of candidates in Toronto elections:

1. Incumbentswhich have the advantage of campaigning every day at the taxpayers expense

2. Party backed candidatesPolitical parties are not allowed to run candidates in municipal elections. That said, some parties have been known to throw their organizational resources behind candidates.

3. Independent Candidates – which are at a severe disadvantage because they neither the advantage of incumbency nor political weight of a political party behind them.

Furthermore, these three kinds of candidates are either:

creations of the media (whose support is first invented by the media followed by actual support from voters); or

– candidates who have or are trying to generate actual support from voters.

I was struck by the following while I attended Redmond’s  “open house”:

  1. Redmond is an “Independent” running against a long time incumbent. This is difficult because, incumbents, simply by being Toronto City Councillors, are effectively campaigning all the time at the taxpayers expense. I have no idea what Redmond is spending on his campaign, but you can be sure that he starts from a big disadvantage.  “The advantages of incumbency are priceless. For everything else, there is Mastercard.”
  2. One of the attendees  was considering running against Redmond in Ward 13. She either stated or led me to believe that she would be backed by  the NDP. The NDP have been and continue to be very active in City Politics. “An endorsement from the NDP is priceless. For everything else there is Mastercard”

Independent Candidates start way behind the incumbents and candidates backed by political parties.

Why is this so?

First, the obvious. Incumbents (free advertising during the term in office) and party backed candidates (a political party has the ability to get out the vote for their candidates) have the advantages of things that money can’t buy.

Second, and this is even more important – voter apathy. By “voter apathy”, I mean the  fact that such a large percentage of people simply don’t vote.

– the reality of Voter Apathy is recognized

– the reality of Voter Apathy is understood to be a destructive  force  in our democracy

– some groups are  doing what they can to combat Voter Apathy

Incumbents don’t win because they receive a large number of eligible votes. Incumbents win because they receive a  large percentage of votes from the people who actually vote.

The Toronto Ward 29 Experience – 2006 Election

In 2006, the current councillor in Ward 29 (who was the incumbent) received only about 17% of the eligible vote and less than 50% of the total number of votes. The NDP candidate received almost the same number of votes – losing by only 20 votes.

No Independent Candidate was able to attract more than a few hundred of the total votes.

In Ward 29, the majority of eligible voters simply did not bother to vote. It would be interesting to learn their reasons. But, it is clear that any Independent Candidate who is able to conquer “Voter Apathy” and get people out to vote could win!

Conclusion – It’s About Voter Apathy:

Redmond Weissenberger and other “Independent candidates” are NOT running against incumbents and candidates backed by political parties.

Independent Candidates are running against Voter Apathy – that is the fact that people don’t vote.

If one doesn’t vote, then one will get exactly the City Council that we have  – that is a City Council that is dominated by incumbents and “party backed” (in most case NDP)  candidates (and in many cases there is substantial overlap).

A call to action:

Please join me in my campaign against Voter Apathy in Toronto. On October 25, 2010 I ask you to do two things:

  1. Get out and vote;
  2. While you are voting, vote for the “independent and sound judgment” of John Richardson!
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3 thoughts on “Independent candidates run against voter apathy

  1. votejohnrichardson Post author

    To see the comments on this article:
    http://www.torontosun.com/comment/editorial/2010/03/19/13294196.html#/comment/editorial/2010/03/19/pf-13294201.html

    Comment Editorial
    Level Toronto’s election playing field: Editorial

    By Toronto Sun

    Last Updated: March 21, 2010 2:54am

    Toronto councillors have totally stacked the deck in their favour during election years like this one and it’s time we put a stop to it.

    The dismally low voter turnouts in city elections already give incumbents a huge advantage in name recognition alone.

    Not much can be done about that until voters realize the mayor and city councillors determine the day-to-day quality of our lives in Toronto far more than do MPPs at Queen’s Park or MPs in Ottawa.

    But immediate steps can be taken to level the playing field on other fronts.

    The first thing that needs to be reined in, severely, are councillors’ $53,100-a-year office budgets, which are used for an orgy of self-promotion.

    This includes everything from producing what are really glossy election brochures thinly disguised as community newsletters — chock full of flattering pictures of themselves posing with constituents — to charitable donations, to sponsoring minor sports teams, to holding community barbecues.

    This is all blatant electioneering aimed at currying favour with constituents.

    As City Hall columnist Sue-Ann Levy documented Thursday, the absurd list of advantages for incumbents over challengers even includes blatant double standards in the booking of ice time at city facilities.

    The rule appears to be that incumbents can book free ice time for so-called community skates, while challengers can’t do the same even for a fee.

    Ridiculous and unfair.

    And does anyone seriously believe the current deadline for ending these self-promoting activities, which only applies as of Sept. 6, much less than two months before the vote, is adequate?

    Of course it isn’t.

    In fact, there’s no excuse for many of these self-promoting activities at any time by incumbents, let alone in an election year.

    They place challengers at a huge disadvantage and add insult to injury in that their own property taxes are being used to help the incumbents they’re running against defeat them.

    Councillors receive their salaries right up to election day, while a serious challenger may have to take time off work or even quit his or her job to mount a credible campaign.

    While we can’t deprive councillors of their salaries, this makes it all the more important that the blatant advantages they have given themselves over the years are removed.

    Starting right now.

    Obviously incumbents are in a conflict-of-interest since most created this problem in the first place and won’t fix it themselves.

    We’d give that job to City Auditor General Jeff Griffiths and Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper, perhaps working in concert with a citizen advisory panel to decide what’s fair.

    The time to make this an election issue is now.

    Between now and Oct. 25, voters need to challenge incumbents constantly on the feathered electoral nests they’ve created for themselves.

    A good start would be to refuse to vote for any incumbent who refuses to agree to substantial reforms.

    Reply
  2. votejohnrichardson Post author

    http://www.thestar.com/yourcitymycity/article/810285–malvern-group-works-to-get-out-the-october-vote

    Malvern group works to get out the October vote

    “Roher criticized incumbents, saying that established politicians capitalize on voter apathy and create an uphill battle for new candidates. In 2006, it only took 12 per cent of Malvern’s voters to return Councillor Raymond Cho to power for his 16th year.”

    May 17, 2010

    Denise Balkissoon

    Volunteers from the Malvern community participated in an Action for Neighbourhood Change workshop Sunday. The session was held to teach the volunteers how to help get out the vote in their local communities for this October’s municipal election.
    RICK EGLINTON/TORONTO STAR

    Last time Toronto had an election, two-thirds of voters in Malvern stayed home. It’s a sorry statistic, even for the involved, educated residents who spent Sunday brainstorming how to increase that number on October 25, municipal election day.

    “That does not look good,” said Tasia Richards, 26, who has lived in the city’s northeast corner since she was eight. She was looking at a graphic presentation about how the demographics of city council differ from the people that it governs.

    A hefty 47 per cent of Toronto’s population identifies as visible minorities, and in Malvern that number jumps to almost 90 per cent. But just 13 per cent of elected decision-makers come from the same demographic.

    Kicking off a summer get-out-the-vote campaign, the Malvern chapter of Action for Neighbourhood Change hosted Sunday’s training event for volunteers who want the area to have a say at City Hall.

    Starting in June, these 17 people will be going door-to-door to remind their neighbours about the election, and encouraging them to take part. To reach the large youth population, there will be in-school sessions for local grade 12 students. Alex Dow, project coordinator for Malvern’s ANC, wants to reach groups that tend not to vote — the area’s many tenants are a target as well.

    Sunday began with a nuts-and-bolts presentation by Jessica Roher of Scarborough Civic Action Network, outlining who can vote, how to register, what identification to take the polling station, and how to find the right polling station in the first place.

    Much of the day’s conversation revolved around just why Malvern doesn’t vote.

    Roher criticized incumbents, saying that established politicians capitalize on voter apathy and create an uphill battle for new candidates. In 2006, it only took 12 per cent of Malvern’s voters to return Councillor Raymond Cho to power for his 16th year.

    “We haven’t seen someone who can take him out,” said volunteer Sukeev Kailayapathy. He thinks this year’s roster of six candidates is promising, speaking highly of Neethan Shanmugarajah for his work with local youth. “This year, I think more people will vote.”

    Low voter turnout was also blamed on mayoral candidates that focus on downtown issues, save for the occasional suburban photo op. “Give them two dates if you’re holding a debate,” suggested Roher. “Don’t let them say they’re busy and shrug you off.”

    Volunteers also did some role-playing, practising their approach to shy or suspicious residents — while providing a bit of comedic relief — and a Jamaican lunch fuelled the political debate.

    Then, 17 citizens of Malvern went home, ready to convince their friends and neighbours to get out and vote

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Unions and corporations make priceless campaign contributions! « Vote John Richardson – Independent Judgment For Toronto Danforth – Ward 29!

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