A letter was recently sent out by a local politically-minded group called FocusNOTL, part of which outlined the group’s beliefs that Niagara-on-the-Lake's past council has failed residents, and mentioning its plan to help educate voters before the municipal election.
While the efforts to educate residents on who is running for council is commendable, the approach of this group seems to be somewhat counter-intuitive to the goal.
The group has organized a series of candidate meetings to which the incumbents running were not invited.
The paper reported on these meetings, and so far the meetings have admittedly been informative. But couldn’t everyone have been involved?
It could be argued these meetings will lean attendees in the favour only of the invited candidates — after all, any exposure is good exposure, or so it’s said — and it seems like a slap in the face to the incumbents, who, regardless of differing points of views, deserve the same chance to offer their platforms in a public setting.
If the reasoning behind the exclusion of all incumbents is that residents already know enough about them, that’s not good enough. There are plenty of new and old residents who don’t know who our current councillors are. If one of those people — perhaps a first time voter, or maybe someone trying to get more involved — decides they want to find out about candidates by attending a candidate meeting, all options should be presented.
If the exclusion is politically motivated, they might as well call it what it is — a rally for a new council.
Whether intentional or not, without inviting the other candidates, it seems to be a form of tipping the scales.
Thankfully, all names will be on the ballots regardless.
I imagine they’d have been better off letting all candidates come, and asking some tough questions head-on about the issues they care about or have been disappointed on during the past term. It would be a better way to educate voters, and wouldn’t have a ‘ban the other team from my fort’ vibe.
This has been edited from the original version to reflect that the letter sent was not focused on the group's direction, but did mention such. The letter was sent by email and forwarded to the paper. As well, the word undemocratic was removed because it wasn't explained clearly enough.
Niagara Now believes in the democratic right to back any candidate during an election. A healthy democracy needs that. It also needs freedom of information. When information is manipulated or controlled by any group, it puts democracy at risk. While FocusNOTL didn't appear to manipulate the meetings, the group is in many ways, including its name, acting as an altruistic entity that's inclusive of everyone, although it is not. The group does not (based on the way it has organized the candidate meetings) encourage the general idea of educated voting, but rather intends to impress its own political viewpoint on the community — a viewpoint that seems to have been established long before any candidate meetings took place. And while there's nothing wrong with rallying, people should be directly told what the motives are, and it shouldn't be masked as altruism.