Opinion: Look beyond your ABCs at the ballot box

Do you remember the late Gim Huey?

Carole Taylor certainly does.

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In 1986, Gim Huey was seeking a spot on the NPA city council slate. He packed the nomination meeting with scores of recently signed-up supporters, many of whom had trouble reading English. Since the NPA was running a nine council candidate slate and his name started with the letter “H,” he instructed his supporters to vote for the first nine names on the ballot. He was elected.

Unfortunately Carole Taylor’s name started with a “T” and appeared 12th on the ballot. She was not elected. She subsequently decided to run as an independent candidate and won. She went on to become one of British Columbia’s most admired and respected politicians and public figures.

Huey placed 15th and went on to lose four more elections.

I think of Gim Huey and Carole Taylor every election year as I review the long list of candidates running for city council, school board and park board.

This year there are 119 people seeking 27 seats.

Of the 49 candidates running for council, 38 represent seven different parties and the other 11 are independents.

Although there have been good independent candidates in recent years such as Sandy Garossino, no independent has won a seat on council since Taylor’s 1986 victory.

Unfortunately, most of us know very little about the 49 council candidates, other than perhaps some incumbents. That is because the party campaigns and media tend to focus on mayoral candidates, not council candidates.

This is a mistake since the 10 winning councillors will each have a vote equal to that of the mayor.

While some park board and school board candidates have fared a bit better, most are also not well known.

Consequently, many voters will be tempted to vote for a party slate, even though every party has some weaker candidates. Other voters will start at the beginning of the alphabetical list and put marks beside candidates’ names until they run out of X’s.

As a result, those candidates whose names start with A, B and C will likely do better than those whose names start with T. Just ask Carole Taylor.

Many more residents will decide not to vote, believing this is better than voting for candidates they know little about, other than the number of signs they may have in the neighbourhood.

I would like to suggest a different approach.

This year we can learn about the candidates from various websites.

To begin, there are those of the parties. In addition to COPE, Green, NPA and Vision Vancouver, you may want to check out OneCity, VancouverFirst and the Cedar Party.

You can also learn about candidates in the City of Vancouver’s website (vancouver.ca) or explore a new website called myvotematters.ca that includes information on many candidates and issues facing the electorate.

Finally, you can find an extensive Voters Guide in the print version of the Vancouver Courier and online election coverage in the paper’s Vancouver Votes 2014 section, including candidate profiles and dozens of excellent news stories.

Sadly, in the last election almost two thirds of Vancouver residents did not vote. Ironically, this didn’t stop many from complaining after the fact about council, school and park board decisions.

This year I hope more people will vote, especially since the 10 other people on Vancouver city council could turn out to be as important as the mayor. It may well be that candidates other than those running for Vision or NPA could hold the balance of power for the next four years. That’s right — four years.

There are also many important issues facing the park and school boards. We need to elect commissioners offering various points of view.

With the election just 10 days away, now is a good time to learn about the candidates.

Let us not be like Gim Huey’s people who blindly voted from the top of the alphabet.

Instead, vote for the best people, regardless of party affiliation or the letter with which their name begins.

michaelarthurgeller@gmail.com

twitter.com/michaelgeller

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