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  • Hot Talk in the City!

    The following opinions reflect my own thoughts, and do not represent any organization that I am connected to. The purpose and hope of this column is to present topics that are relevant to our community and encourage healthy, respectful discussions. 

    Your thoughts and opinions are most welcomed here, we ask only that you do not call out any one by name or use any abusive or demeaning language towards any individuals or organizations.   

    The Hot Topic this week is: Endorsements of municipal election candidates.

    Recently, we have seen some endorsements of Municipal Election Candidates from individuals, non-profit community service organizations, for profit businesses, and other Candidates running in the same campaign.

    I feel that personal endorsements from individuals is 100% acceptable. We vote as individuals; therefore, personal endorsements are not in question here. But that’s where it ends for me. The following are a few questions to consider regarding endorsement…

    Let’s start with Non-Profit Organizations (NPO):

    • If an NPO publicly endorses a Candidate, and that Candidate is elected to office, does the Candidate now owe the NPO a favour? For example, what if the NPO applies for funding support from the City and the Candidate they endorsed, now a Councillor, advocates in favour of the NPO. Is this merely bad optics or could this be considered a conflict of interest? 
    • Does the NPO have the right to speak on behalf of an entire organization? Consider that there are usually many people connected to an NPO – this may create issues within the NPO structure. There is the Board of Directors, the members, the volunteers, and all the people who donate to that NPO.  Did the one person who spoke on behalf of their NPO poll everyone connected to their organization to ensure they had a majority vote? What if another person from the same NPO feels compelled to endorse different Candidates? At the very least this could get messy, but at worst, it could cause deep issues that begin to tear the NPO down. Is endorsing a Candidate worth creating this potential issue?
    • If an individual publicly endorses a Candidate and invokes the name of an NPO, (that they may or may not be a member of), and the NPO learns of it, is it the responsibility of the Board of Directors to publicly state that they do not endorse any candidate?  Should they also request individuals to not use their NPO name when personally endorsing Candidates? What is the Board’s responsibility to protect the integrity of their NPO?  
    • Let’s also consider the number of people connected with any given NPO, and the amount of power an NPO may have to influence Candidates and future elected Council members. Has endorsement now turned into lobbying? Where do we draw the line here? Again, is this simply bad optics or is there something more powerful and potentially dangerous to consider here?

    Let’s move on to For Profit Organizations (FPO):

    • ABC Bakery endorses a Candidate, and that Candidate is elected to office. There may be no evidence that there is a direct correlation of election to the endorsement, but could there a perception or an “understanding” that the Candidate (now a Councillor) owes the FPO a favour?  Let’s say the City is now hosting a weekly event and needs to order bakery goods, and ABC Bakery is given the contract. What if you owned XYZ Bakery and you provided the same product, price & service, but you did not receive a contract.  What if ABC Bakery breaks a by-law, but the City lets them off with a warning, or worse, just looked the other way? What if it’s a re-zoning issue and again the endorsed Candidate advocates in favour for the FPO that endorsed them?  Again, is this merely bad optics or could there something more serious to consider here? 

    And finally, the question of Candidates endorsing other Candidates: 

    • Does the Candidate being endorsed now “owe” the Candidate who gave them and endorsement? 
    • What value does this bring to the Candidate giving the endorsement? 
    • Why does the Candidate require/want the endorsement of another Candidate? Is their own platform weak & without substance?  Do they feel they do not have enough personal merit to stand on their own, that they need the endorsement of another? 
    • If the endorsed Candidate does or says something during the election campaign, or if information about the endorsed Candidate emerges during the campaign that is NOT in alignment with the Candidate who endorsed them, does the endorsing Candidate still have their independent voice to speak against the one they endorsed, or are they now obliged to keep quiet? 
    • If both Candidates are elected to office, does this alliance to each other during campaigning now extend to their vote in Council sessions? Will they meet prior to the Council sessions to discuss and possibly plan to back each other up? 
    • Should a Candidate’s ONLY allegiance, alliance and loyalty be to the residents of Chestermere and NOT to each other? 
    • In summary, does the practice of Candidates endorsing other Candidates create a question of integrity and transparency?

    These are my thoughts…what are yours?