Friday, May 06, 2011

What to look for in an Elected Representative

Recently during the Canadian federal election voters were asked to make a choice out of a slate of possibilities.  Voters were asked to choose someone from a list of candidates to represent them in the House of Commons in Ottawa. 

Voters in Ontario will have voted three times for muncipal, federal and provincial representatives from late 2010 to late 2011.  In each election voters were given several different shades of colour to choose from, different party platforms, different leaders and different scandals to choose from.  But how does a voter choose between them all?  The main answer is that the person who your riding ultimately chooses will represent your voice in the House of Commons, legislature or council chamber with a decent pay cheque.  Bottom line is the candidates are applying for a job and the voter is a member of the hiring comittee.  As a member of the hiring comittee each voter should be looking at the aspects outlined below.

Each candidate for election is applying for the job as representative for your community.  Normally in a job search situation resumes and cover letters are required.  In this previous federal election many candidates told us about their experience and achievements.  Candidates should tell voters of experience both inside and outside politics.  Experiences outside politics include previous jobs and volunteer opportunities involved in.  Within politics candidates should answer if they have held elected office before and what goverment comittees they have been on as a citizen or elected member.  Further on the resume portion the applicant should outline their educational achievements.  Basically the candidate should outline their previous employment, volunteer and educational experience which should show how they would be a good candidate to choose for the job.  Candidates need a good resume because they are after all applying for a position with a job description and a decent salary.

Poltics isn't always about experience.  Questions on issues during the election pop up and platforms are supposed to give the answers to these questions.  Voters should investigate the beliefs and views of their candidates as it is usually a good indicator of how these candidates will espouse their ideas on behalf of the local community. Study these platforms carefully though as many political parties recently have gone into attack mode rather than layout their beliefs.  Attack mode is easy to pick out as the parties or candidates make no mention of what they believe but point out in a negative way the beliefs of their opponents.  Often the attacks will attempt to frame and/or skew the opponents platform in a bad light.  Remember, you want to know what the candidate or political party themselves believe and not what they think of their opponent. This is because, quite frankly, if you were interested in their opponent you would be reviewing the opponent's platform and not those an opposing candidate.

In the previous election the issue of where a candidate lives have become an issue.  In the Richmond Hill riding in the previous federal election two of the four candidates did not reside in the riding they wanted to represent. In Quebec an NDP candidate who was elected lived around 400 KM away from her riding and possibly has never set foot in the riding.  The main question is: If an elected representative does not live in the riding for they represent for a decent period of time how do they intimately know the concerns, wishes, views and issues of the riding?  The main fact is they do not.  The candidate doesn't have the history or knowledge of the needs of the community and how it came to be in the recent past.  

Candidates also need to look like they are applying for the position in a professional manner.  Websites, signs and literature need to look professionally done and not completed as some student council high school election. The successfully elected candidate is going to be representing the community with a pay cheque around one hundred thousand dollars or higher along with a possible pension.  Thus, candidates should have professionally printed materials and nice looking websites that espouse their experience and platform.  Candidates should dress up everything after all as they are applying for an executive level job with a matching compensation. 

Candidates for election should also prove to voters that the community is going to be represented by their complete undivided attention.  Federal, provincial and municipal politics require vast amounts of time to listen to debate, vote, meet with constituents and respond to comments and queries.  Thus the job should have the complete undivided attention of the person holding the job description.  A great case in point recently happenned with the NDP Candidate for the riding of Newmarket-Aurora in the previous federal election.  Kassandra Bidarian was attending university courses at the University of Toronto.  She promised that next year her course load would be less than it was this year.  The main issue that arose in the community was how would Ms. Bidarian provide proper representation in Ottawa for Newmarket-Aurora while still taking courses at her university in Toronto?  The right answer was she could not.  Ms. Bidarian never really acknowledged this and this was perhaps one of the main reasons she was not elected. Elected officials are supposed to be mostly full time positions with adequate compensation for the position.  Thus the position and responsibilities they entail should have the full undivided attention of the office holder.  Any candidate who espouses a view differently doesn't deserve to be elected and the ensuing pay cheque and pension paid for by taxpayers money.

Overall political candidates have many failings including skeletons in the closet and lack of previous experience.  But failing to adhere to provide voters with information on experience, proof of residency within a riding and a professional looking presentation should not be a failing.  Failure to provide voters with these things just shows voters that the candidate could care less whether they get elected or not.  This brings up the main quesiton: If a candidate doesn't care about getting elected than how do voters know the elected candidate will care about the community they represent?

1 comment:

  1. I think NDP did not have many candidates ready, so anyone was able to apply. It is kind of sad to see that process. I think Elections Canada, should have some guidelines and qualifications who can run. Anna :)


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