Incumbents Stack the Deck – Time for Change
I could only smile when I saw the headline in today’s Ottawa Citizen, Watson decries Cullen’s office-paid ads – City official says no election policy breached. This is the second time in as many months that mayoral candidate, Jim Watson, as implied that his opponents are using their office budgets to bolster their own political agendas by disguising it as city business and not electioneering.
Well, at least I’m glad to see the topic is getting some print. Ward challengers have forever complained about the use of office budgets by sitting councillors to “inform” their residents of ward issues. It’s not just coincidence that there are more updates during election years. These updates, called “householders”, are sent to each house in the ward or part of a ward and usually contain the councillors’ face on the front with their name in big letters and again on the back with many pictures of the councillor doing ward things throughout the piece. Since I live in Ward 16, River Ward, I always get a kick out of counting the number of times my councillor uses her name or uses the pronoun “I” in one mail out.
I would like to ask Mr. Watson to propose some guidelines that councillors should follow so as not to give them such an advantage over challengers. Here are some suggestions:
• City of Ottawa should design a template that all information going out from city offices, including councillor offices and mayor offices.
• The number of householders should be limited once the nomination period is open.
• During election years, each householder that goes out after nominations are open should contain the list of nominated candidates in their ward at the time of printing just as the city does on its website. It is only fair that councillors update their ward residents of who running in their ward for the next election. This is important ward information too.
After the 2006 election, council reduced the number of days elections signs can be displayed from the length of the campaign period to thirty. This reduced the number of days non-incumbents can use a very important electoral tool to bolster name recognition. Couple this with the fact that councillors can send out as many householders as they want with their face plastered all over it right up to the close of nominations and you start to get the picture of what Jim Watson is complaining about.
Over to you Jim!