May 01, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

My life in crime…er, I mean politics 

A peek behind the signs of an election

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I think that being elected to serve the public is reward in itself. Nobody else agreed.

As for the time involved in service, it can be phenomenal. Experienced councillors, some of them from serving at Whistler going back 20 or 30 years, told me that the amount of time they averaged per week on council business ranged from a low of 10 hours (only one person said that) to more than 40 hours (three people said that). Most said it took them 20 to 30 hours per week, much of it spent in tedious committee meetings and answering countless emails and phone calls.

One cold, rainy night door-knocking - my community recommends hitting 1,000 homes if you are serious about your candidacy; I did 800 - I was fed up after trying to deal politely with someone who ranted about nothing to do with me or what I was campaigning on. I thought about those long hours you'd spend week after week, for three years. I also remembered one ex-councillor's caution about how long it takes to move ideas forward if you get in - idealists beware. In such moments, you couldn't blame me for wondering if I still wanted the job.

In retrospect, thinking about standing on that porch, I also wonder why people get so cynical about those who are willing to spend tons of time and energy trying to get hired by the public to work for 12 bucks an hour. Maybe that's why people think politicians are crooks - the straight pay stinks so they must be after the pay-off.

 


... And out of money

If you have some extra time you can quickly mollify your suspicions about where the election buck stops. Just scan the financial disclosure statements each candidate has to make and every jurisdiction has to post publicly by a set deadline after each election. If they aren't available on-line, you can ask to see them at your city hall.

Financial disclosure statements are pretty revealing, especially if you're considering running yourself. You can see who to ask for money; you can see who supports whom; you can decide if it's worth running.

Last civic election we 23 candidates pumped nearly $118,000 into our local economy in four short weeks. Besides Canada Post, our local newspaper and local sign-maker/printer got most of it.

That meant an average spending of $5,128 per candidate. The biggest spender dropped $13,400; two candidates didn't spend a thing, so you can see you can go for whatever level of financial engagement you're comfortable with.

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