August 23. 2018
The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association Stance on Candidate Endorsement
The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (MRA) works hard to keep members informed about the activities of the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council. We take pride in keeping up with local politics. These are the politics that most affect our day-to-day lives and (particularly with the decline of the local press) our members rely on us to keep them informed. We make sure that an MRA representative attends every meeting of Council, Committee of the Whole, and Committee of Adjustment. There are at least one set of these meetings per month, and often additional special or public meetings as well. In the past 4 years, there have been over 200 of these meetings that have taken place, and the MRA has been there for all of them. The MRA reports on these activities to our membership through our monthly Township Watch™, and we post it on our web site for all interested parties to read. With this level of involvement one would think that it would be an easy job for the MRA to endorse certain electoral candidates over others.
The Challenges of Candidate Endorsement
The MRA does not endorse any candidate for elected office. We never have. We do not presume to know more about who is the best person for the job than our members do. But, we do our best to inform our members (and all interested voters) through the information we provide in Township Watch, Keeping You Informed, Did You Know? and by sponsoring an All Candidates Meeting. We leave it to the individual voters to assess our comments (and those of others), and then make up their minds as to whom to support.
We recognize that most local voters (including seasonal residents), want fair taxes and quality services, but often they do not want to be involved in local politics. They often look for some help in making a voting decision. However, in our opinion, that does not extend to being told for whom to vote.
In addition to our belief that our members are capable of making an informed choice, we see some dangers in recommending particular candidates. Candidate endorsement in the Township of Muskoka Lakes typically comes from two types of groups:
- A “Single Issue” organization or advocacy group that promotes or opposes something with little focus or concern for other issues
- A “Balanced” organization that has a membership base, and is interested in many activities and issues in the Township
But here’s the problem with taking their advice.
Single Interest Group Endorsement
In considering the endorsement of a Single Issue interest group, you might consider the following:
- Is this the only issue for the next four years?
- Does this group think beyond the single issue?
- Is this an issue across the Township, or is it only local?
- Are there aspects of NIMBY-ism (Not In My Back Yard) with the issue?
- If a candidate is elected on the single issue, how will he or she vote on other issues?
- Does the candidate have any interests outside of the single issue?
- Will the candidate listen to adult debate, or is his or her mind made up?
- Does the candidate feel that he or she must represent those who voted for them no matter what?
We all have issues that we feel strongly about, but the world is not a simple place and sometimes negotiated compromise has to be made for the good of all.
Balanced Organization Endorsement
What about following the recommendations or endorsements of a more balanced organization that promotes itself as representing all voters across all issues? On the surface, this sounds like a more informed option, but also presents some challenges, including:
- Does a successful (supported) candidate owe anything to the endorsing organization?
- Is there a concern that this will become the “organization’s council” rather than one that is working to benefit the whole community?
- Is there a resulting reluctance to criticize the positions of that council?
- Can fair and balanced reporting of that council occur?
- If that council proves not to be everything that was anticipated at the time of the endorsement, will the organization accept some of the blame and are they capable of doing so?
For these reasons and others, the MRA feels that it is wise not to endorse specific candidates or a slate of candidates. Obviously, individual members and directors of the MRA come to their own decisions on whom to vote for, but as an organization, that is a place where we feel we should not go.
In closing, it should be pointed out that a “single issue” or “special interest” group has an easy job in recommending candidates. They simply frame their issue, “interview” the candidates, get a simple “yes” or “no” answer from the candidates, then recommend those that supported the answer they wanted to hear.
The MRA continues to choose not to recommend one candidate over another, but rather to help candidates get their messages out. We hope candidates will emerge that we will want to vote for because they live in our community, have knowledge of our local community issues, articulate and work towards a vision to build our community, and are of high moral and ethical character.
When these candidates emerge from the fray, the choice of whom to vote for will be clear.
Director – MRA