Ken Blackburn has put his name forward for the 2021 municipal by-election for city council. Photo provided

Byelection candidate reflects on election reforms

It is truly a profound experience to run for local political office. I was honoured and humbled to have been able to offer a voice for the arts and culture sector, alongside the larger non-profit social/environmental sector.

Without a strong non-profit sector, there is no positive business development

I would like to offer some election observations.

1) Voter Turnout. At 8.6 per cent voter turnout, this presents a serious challenge for community development. The factors for low turnout are complex and I would suggest a Community Roundtable Discussion be organized by the city in order to examine how each sector of our community can contribute to supporting greater turnout.

2) Virtual Campaign Challenges. The pandemic prevented public gatherings and highlighted the challenges of virtual platforms. Most importantly, the lack of public political interaction removes the two most important pillars of an election – that of oratory and debate. We all benefit from experiencing candidates engaged in a live and interactive deliberation, while demonstrating public speaking abilities and clarity of opinion. Live debate is also where speculative statistics and exaggerated data can be challenged immediately. Virtual platforms struggle with live interactivity. As a community we need to discuss how to best manage virtual platforms in an election. Add this to the Community Roundtable

3) Codes of Conduct for sitting Councillors and Candidates. It is absolutely disrespectful to a community, current council and to all candidates running for office, to have sitting councillors publicly endorse a particular candidate. It has the appearance of political interference and may indicate a conflict of interest. It also questions a councillor’s professional integrity. Ultimately, it is a betrayal of community fairness and raises the spectre of collusion. This applies equally to candidates. A candidate should demonstrate a clear commitment to integrity and ethical standards and should immediately refuse any current Councillors political endorsement. Clearly this was not followed in this election and now we have three sitting councillors whose votes on motions may not be trusted to be in the community’s best interest. I have worked in Russia and Ukraine and have examined political corruption at the local level. It always begins with alliances being built secretly amongst governing officials. Collusion starts the erosion of community cohesion. We must remain vigilant in our intolerance for any violation and breach of community trust. Again, a Community Roundtable to establish clear Codes of Conduct for sitting councillors and candidates is highly recommended.

4) And lastly the Roundtable should examine the role of lawn signs in an election. Municipal elections are not party politics. Signs made locally should be encouraged. Creative design and colour options should also be encouraged. As a form of active public art, the lawn sign can be an informative and engaging aspect of an election. We should collectively examine how best to utilize the public sign during elections.

Thank you Campbell River for the opportunity to engage with you this past election.

We can and will do better together.

Let’s start with a Community Roundtable Discussion to address these challenges.

Ken Blackburn

Campbell River