Greg Kielec writes: The campaign leading up the the municipal election Monday in Cornwall was a bit of an experiment for me. It was my first foray into politics at any level and I wanted to see how well one could do without big money and without the backing of a major political party.
I ran my campaign on a budget of $300, which basically covered the cost of cards so I at least had something to hand out at candidate events and during door-to-door campaigning. I decided at the outset to forego lawn signs or newspaper advertising.
I told supporters that if I had to buy a campaign with big money than I would rather not win at all. It turned out to be prophetic, and that is not an indictment of voters nor is it a criticism those elected to the new council — some excellent choices were made. But it is, to some degree, a reflection of the system.
What was eye-opening, and somewhat disheartening for me, were that a number of councillors got elected not necessarily because they were the most sincere or had the best platforms, but because they had vast sums of money to spend and/or had the backing of a major provincial political party.
These two factors — big money and party politics — create an incredibly uneven playing field for first-time candidates who may have had great ideas and a sincere desire to improve our city but didn’t have thousands of dollars nor the backing of a major political party.
This in no way would have affected my showing in the election (I finished way too low in the polls), nor does not necessarily mean the end result would have changed with a level playing field. It is quite possible the 10 council members elected are the people the voting public wanted all along.
But unless provincial politics and big money is taken out the system, we will never know if we are truly seeing the real people’s choices every four years when the election results roll in.
- I heard throughout the campaign that voters wanted change and the results show that they indeed got their wish, especially at the top with the election of mayor-elect Leslie O’Shaughnessy.
- One of my favourite new candidates received a huge vote of confidence from the electorate. Carilyne Hebert is a bright, vibrant bundle of energy and should serve the new council well.
- Another one of my favourite candidates, Mike O’Neill, did not make the cut despite running an outstanding campaign for a rookie. He is a man who had all the ingredients needed for this council to transition the disastrous past four years.
- Two of my favourite incumbents — Andre Rivette and Maurice Dupelle — were elected campaigning the old fashioned way. As far as I know, neither received backing from a political party and relied on old-fashioned campaigning to earn their victories.
- The turnout was lower at the polls than 2010, despite the high-profile nature of this election. Were people hampered from voting by the small number of polls — just 10 — on election day? Finding ways to get out the vote should be one of the priorities of the new council.
Greg Kielec is a career reporter and newspaper editor with more than 25 years experience covering municipal politics in Cornwall in the surrounding area. He most recently worked for The/Le Journal, where he covered Cornwall City Hall extensively. Prior to that he spent more than 10 years at the Standard-Freeholder in Cornwall as reporter, wire editor and assistant city editor.