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:
2. Party backed candidates – Political 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”:
- 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.”
- 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:
- Get out and vote;
- While you are voting, vote for the “independent and sound judgment” of John Richardson!