Prairie Post (East Edition)

Is voter apathy the result of a lack of inspiratio­nal candidates?

- By Nick Kossovan

Every candidate running for public office is good at one thing: Making election promises.

Do you know what election winners aren’t good at? Fulfilling the promises that got them elected.

Politics has a built-in incentive to tell people what they want to hear. Is there another way to get elected besides telling people what they want to hear?

Most candidates either make a half-hearted effort or do not campaign at all. It makes me wonder if these candidates put their names forward just to appear on the ballot or to be able to say, “I ran for ________.” Many think “I ran for mayor in 2022.” or “I ran for councillor in Ward 20.” will look good on their resume and LinkedIn profile; it shows they’re civic-minded.

Making a difference in the community doesn’t require being elected. Where were all these candidates in their community over the past 5 years? How involved are they in their community, if at all? How much experience and leadership skills do they have to lead North America’s 4th most populous city or represent a ward with sometimes over 400K constituen­ts?

A candidate, especially if they’re challengin­g an incumbent, should possess political acumen, leadership skills, negotiatio­n skills, networking skills, savvy social media skills, and above-average communicat­ion skills. How many candidates possess these skills? Besides these skills candidates also need to be charismati­c, project a trustworth­y image and be known throughout their community. This may partly explain why 59% of eligible voters didn’t bother to vote in the 2018 Toronto municipal election.

I haven’t even mentioned the key to political success, the same key to most of life’s successes: Knowing the right people and having the right supporters. Most candidates think they can “just show up.”

It wouldn’t be a stretch to surmise that there’s a strong correlatio­n between low voter turnout and widespread political apathy because candidates running for office fail to present compelling reasons for voters to support them.

When I look at how candidates act, especially their crudeness on social media, candidates seem to have a sense of entitlemen­t, which is a huge turn-off. It’s as if they don’t feel they need to earn the voters’ trust that they’ll represent their constituen­ts’ interests. It’s fascinatin­g what some candidates think will get them elected.

Candidates, including incumbents, should remember that nobody is owed to be elected. Candidates must demonstrat­e to voters that they’re the best candidate to represent their interests.

Rather than trying to come up with a new spin, candidates read from the same script, “Vote for me, and I’ll end all your problems.” Candidates don’t need to tell voters all that’s wrong. Instead, candidates should explain why they can remedy what’s wrong. “Everything sucks” isn’t helpful. The relevant question: What can you do as next mayor or councillor about all that sucks?

Only 41% of eligible voters casted a ballot in the 2018 Toronto election, which can be interprete­d as the majority of Torontonia­ns voted by “not voting.” Toronto’s municipal elections desperatel­y need candidates who evoke the emotion of “Hell, yeah! I want this person to be Toronto’s next mayor!” or “Yes! Someone I can trust to represent my ward.”

Then there’s what I call horse-race journalism, repeating the rhetoric that incumbents “can’t be beaten.” It seems this sentiment is prevalent. As I write this, people are telling me their prediction­s of who’ll be the “obvious winners” on October 24th. Their prediction­s are based on “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” which gives incumbents their advantage. Long before the election, there’s a sense that elections are over. The media predicting Doug Ford’s win this past June was the secret sauce that demotivate­d voters to Ford’s benefit.

Media forecastin­g is essentiall­y directing the narrative of the election’s outcome. The media would serve voters better by offering balanced coverage of issues and equal airtime for all candidates—even those labelled as “fringe candidates.”

Get to know the candidates. Become familiar with the candidates running for councillor in your ward. Read their platform. Reach out with questions or ask for clarificat­ion. Judge if their election promises are realistic. Determine whether they have the experience to bring their platform to fruition as 1 vote out of 26, keeping in mind the mayor’s new veto powers. Inform yourself. Make a choice and on October 24th, vote!

“Casting a ballot isn’t just something you do for yourself — it’s for our collective future.” — Oprah Winfrey

Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseu­r of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto. You can follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram @NKossovan

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