Yesterday, we took a look at a hypothetical Job Description for first-time Council Candidates. That Facebook note is actually the kind of post all voters need to read prior to each election. It’s a reminder of what Councillors are hired to do, and of what kind of skills our Councillors should have. But should a first-time candidate read it? In my opinion, only with a grain of salt.
To be fair, Richard Stewart is the Mayor of the City of Coquitlam, and certainly has the experience and the knowledge to create a legitimate job description for a City Councillor. I believe his intentions were honestly motivated by a desire to educate - even when I see the list of 29 areas of knowledge that “would be considered assets” for a candidate. FYI, these are in addition to government structure, budgeting, policy, organization behaviour, legal structure, and communications!
How many first-time candidates will enter the race with backgrounds like this? Anyone?
How many individuals will decide NOT to submit their nomination package if they read this laundry list of impossibilities? Even one would be too many.
Stewart’s Job Description is laced with humour, but even as a joke, his list of candidate requirements runs the risk of discouraging, or even intimidating potential candidates. It’s unrealistic to expect that anyone entering public service for the first time would be well-versed in any more than even a few of these particular areas. And, it’s damaging to the democratic process to put this out there to voters, and to suggest they vet candidates by how many of their areas of expertise match up with the items on this list.
Of course, it would be helpful if an individual running for Council had a background in land use or regional planning, or traffic engineering, or heritage preservation, or building maintenance. But it’s not a perfect world, and it’s much more important that candidates, at all stages of their public lives have the skill set necessary to facilitate the work that Council is required to do. All levels of government, including municipal, hire professionals to fill department positions. They’re the experts, and it's their knowledge that needs to be best utilized, not the Councillors'.
Each candidate comes to the table with different areas of competence and their own life experiences. We need Councillors who can be both team members, and leaders; who are open to learning, and open to change; Councillors with compassion and empathy who will listen to the electorate. We want our governments to be transparent, which means our candidates should exhibit honesty and integrity.
Quoting Richard Stewart: “A democracy only works if good people step forward to run.” Let’s not discourage anyone from putting their name forward. The stakes are too high.
Read the complete Job Description here.
Read our Part 1 blog post here.
Nominations for the Township of Langley 2018 Municipal Election are now open. Packages for the positions of Mayor, Councillor, and School Trustee are available here, and will be accepted at the Civic Facility until 4pm Friday, September 14, 2018.