Slates money and the importance of the election

With boring mayor’s race this election could determine future of Calgary

As mentioned in our news feature this week there’s been some “hullabaloo around municipal slates” in the lead-up to October’s election and that’s a good thing.

It’s hard to find many people who support party politics creeping into the civic system in Alberta. Nobody wants the kind of rigid party control that happens in legislatures and parliament where individual representatives are now almost completely neutered in their ability to represent the views of their constituents in pressing matters.

Some put forward the argument that slates can help to identify the views of a candidate more effectively than if they’re a voice in the wilderness outlining their policy direction alone. But this isn’t national politics where there’s an entire country to be lost in where leaders and parties help identify the politics of a candidate. These are local wards with local concerns that ought to be represented by those who are concerned about those very specific concerns. A slate can say they want lower taxes and more roads (no seriously people say things like this) but what I want to know is what’s happening with that stalled development down the block. I want a grand vision yes but the central focus has to be on the issues that affect the area in which I live.

And that’s why people getting fussed up about slates is a good sign. Hell people paying attention to civic politics no matter the view has got to be seen as a bonus in today’s apathetic political culture.

But it’s not just party politics that we have to be concerned about as signs start dotting lawns and doors are knocked more aggressively. We also have to worry about the concentrated power of money and the myriad ways that it can find loopholes in our weak elections legislation to fund the “right” candidates.

As Preston Manning the diminutive cobbler of conservative causes sets his sights on Calgary’s council backed by a million dollars from the local development industry it’s important for people to think critically about what Manning and his organization are trying to accomplish.

This isn’t some conspiracy-laden left-wing rant either. There is a place for the Manning Centre and some of the research they are conducting and intend to conduct. What’s important is to be vigilant about the nature the scope and the means by which that research is conducted and compiled.

Tracing potential voting blocks in council? That can be valuable information although the centre’s first attempt did suffer from some poor framing and data collection. The report stretched to find meaning at times including tracking how often an alderman asks questions without noting whether that simply meant the talkative politician was confused or contributing something meaningful to the discussion (for the record Ward 10 Ald. Andre Chabot asks the most questions).

What’s disconcerting is that those who build our suburbs are putting on a full-court press in order to ensure they can continue building this city the way they’ve been building this city. Their vision is outdated and unsustainable (in financial environmental and social terms) and shouldn’t be allowed to pay for four more years of the status quo or worse.

This is an election where forces have gathered to counter Nenshi’s popularity in order to push an alternate agenda. They’re not going through the mayoral candidates (check out Milan Papez and Larry Heather if you want to see the kind of people who are running for that position) but targeting the council that holds 14 votes to the mayor’s one.

I’m not taking a stand on that. I’m simply stating the importance of the coming vote. If you agree with the vision put forth by Nenshi which is in large part supported by the current council it’s time to pay attention. If you think there needs to be change on the current council it’s time to pay attention and think about what kind of change you want. This election is important largely because the mayoral race isn’t.

Whether you lean to the right or to the left most will agree that people pushing a personal agenda have no place on council or behind it.