Loose Cannon: Why I endorse endorsements
Wednesday, October 20, 20102 Comments
Endorsing candidates based in their records (or their promises) would send a message that the CSA is actively involved in polit
Campaigning for public office is a tough and sometimes lonely job. If you're an incumbent, an election requires you to defend your record in office against those who would seek to tear it down.
If you're new to politics, getting elected can be even tougher. Not do you need to prove yourself the more qualified candidate, you also need have a certain amount of popular momentum on your side. Being perceived as a front runner makes voters think a little bit harder before casting their ballot based solely on name recognition.
When political candidates go looking for endorsements, what they're really looking for is momentum from influential people. Having a lot of endorsements is like having an entourage of cool friends – people will wonder what makes you so special.
To my knowledge, there has been only one major endorsement made during the Guelph municipal election, and it was notable only for the controversy it caused.
After the Guelph Labour Council released its “dream team” list for mayor and city council, based on “a review of past voting records and an all-candidates meeting” as well as a questionnaire, some of the candidates candidates stepped forward to complain they had never even been contacted by the Union.
There were some pretty notable oversights. Jim Galatianos, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers who is running in Ward 3, said he never received an invitation to the all-candidates event.
Neither did Van Hellemond, a Ward 2 candidate and former President of the National Hockey League Officials’ Association, the union representing NHL referees and linesmen.
This isn't the first time the GLC has been chastised for its record of endorsements. During the 2006 municipal election, then-President Terry O’Connor admitted that the Union only bothered to contact “what we consider labour-friendly candidates,” which amounted to about two-thirds of the people running that year.
Granted, endorsing an entire slate of candidates is pushing the influence game a little too far, especially if you're unable (or unwilling) to give everyone a fair chance.
Then again, an endorsement is only as good as the reputation of the endorser. If voters think that an endorsement is well-reasoned or comes from a trustworthy source, they'll give it more weight.
Which brings me to my point. If the GLC can endorse a union-friendly mayor and council, why shouldn't the Central Student Association Board, our elected representatives on campus, endorse a student-friendly mayor and council? Heck, why not endorse student-friendly members of provincial and federal parliament?
The CSA Board has tried very hard to be non-partisan in its approach to politics, avoiding endorsements of any kind during elections.
Pretending that the CSA Board is not a political entity is, in my opinion, part of the problem. Students expect a certain level of leadership from their elected officials, and that includes making decisions in their best interests.
Endorsing candidates based in their records (or their promises) would send a message that the CSA is actively involved in the political process, watching what politicians say about student issues on the campaign trail. It would provoke discuss and debate, which is really what politics is all about.
The CSA's current get-out-the-vote campaigns fail to generate much enthusiasm precisely because there is a lack of leadership in identifying who to vote for. Instead, students are told to figure it out for themselves.
Before I'm accused of encouraging university students to be mindless sheep, I should point out that voters are influenced by all kinds of outside input, including pressure from family members and peer groups, attack ads, news reports, campaign polls, or because they liked the colour of a candidate's lawn signs.
If the CSA Board developed a serious vetting process and voted to endorse candidates based on their commitment to students' interests, it would arguably be no worse than other methods used to sway voters during an election.
If such endorsements increased student voter turnout, it might also position the CSA as an influential kingmaker in local politics – and force politicians to pay attention.
Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Loose Cannon publishes every Thursday in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.
The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.