Markham voters face challenges to weed out incompetence
The city of Markham seems to have become a political hotbed as a flock of candidates are contending for the few coveted councillor seats. But will the rapid expansion of candidacy result in reshaping the council that can better serve the Markham residents? As large gaps exist in candidates’ qualifications and proven track records, Markham voters face touch challenges to weed out the incompetent candidates.
It seems like everyone wants to run in municipal elections these days. The City of Markham has experienced a proliferation of election candidates this year. There are more registered candidates than ever in the municipality’s election history. Increased interest at the municipal level is often sparked by the exposure of mismanagement at the city, as what happened with the arena issue. Occasionally it can lead to a complete change of Council with all new council members. More often there's a big shake-up on Council, with the best, brightest, and most qualified councillors re-elected while the rest fall by the wayside.
People enter the political arena for very different reasons. Some have no intention of becoming a councillor but are drawn in by supporting or opposing a particular issue, only to realize there are many other issues they are interested in. They become actively involved in the community through different organizations, attend Council, committee and public meetings. They conduct research and understand the issues, and participate with deputations and delegations. After several years it becomes obvious they can make a far bigger difference on Council than in front of Council.
另一群候选人则是伪装者和机会主义者。他们甚至连议会会议厅什么样都不知道！一些地方市议员候选人甚至不了解可以追溯至1794年的万锦市最古老的地区之一，央街以东的康山地区属于万锦市。一些地区的候选人根本不清楚约克区议会（York Region Council）代表哪些市镇，他们说不出这些市镇的名字，也无法区分地区和市政问题，此外他们对地区的预算赤字和债务规模也一无所知。但尽管如此，他们仍然决定参选。
Another group of candidates are pretenders and opportunists. They have never even seen the inside of Council Chamber! Some local councillor candidates don't even know that one of the oldest parts of Markham dating back to 1794 -- Thornhill east of Yonge is part of Markham. Some regional candidates have no idea which municipalities are represented on York Region Council. They cannot name them,nor can they distinguish between regional and municipal issues. They even have no idea of the size of the Region’s budget deficit and debt. Nevertheless, they throw their name in the hat.
Some, such as media broadcasters, medical doctors, and those with academia credentials, convince themselves and others that they can attract votes through their professions alone. Others run on a family name counting on voters with faded memories of departed loved ones, whilst others are one issue candidates. Some hope to get the votes of particular cultural groups whilst others, lacking in official language communication skills are limited to running in enclaves of their own heritage. Many of them have never demonstrated active participation in municipal affairs or community service, have known little if anything of the major controversial issues, let alone take a position on them. They do not realize the breadth of common knowledge and lack managerial skills, consensus leadership, and business savvy required.
In the minds of many candidates, “sitting” on Council is still a “part-time” job. Little do they realise that there are a myriad of committees to sit on and meetings and functions to attend. Unlike the other two levels of provincial and federal government, there are no supporting teams of researchers from political parties with established positions ready to present. Councillors have to determine their own positions independently on every single issue and it can be embarrassing if they misunderstand and end up on the wrong side of a vote. Council members each have one executive assistant who also has to deal with constituents’ requests and complaints. Consequently councillors have to do their own research or depend on the recommendations of staff as directed by the mayor.
Markham residents deserve to be represented by the best. Voters have the difficult task of selecting the best candidates. The more candidates there are, the more difficult the decision becomes. For this election, as there are so many candidates, voters will have to start sorting through them early, especially the regional candidates. They must retain the capable incumbents and discard the inept ones. They have to select from the new candidates, those with appropriate credentials and a proven track record of participation in local issues. One of the easiest ways of assessing how active a candidate has been in local issues is to Google their name. Not all activities find their way online but some do. If one candidate has pages and pages of relevant references while another has very few, it's a good indication of who has been active and who hasn't. Another way is to attend a Council meeting or two, and talk to people who were in the audience after the meeting, especially those making deputations.
Take a close look at the election postcards that are dropped off at home. Does the candidate tackle the difficult or controversial issues or only address all motherhood issues such as building a university, better transit, or more parks. Is more detail provided on a website or is there just a photo with the same information as the card? Is there too much detail on the website?There's no point in rewriting the City of Markham website. People who do that have very poor judgement because they cannot distinguish between what is at issue and what isn't, what is important and what isn't, what is relevant in an election and what isn't. Do the candidates talk about themselves?What they believe in?Do they avoid personal attributes? Do they say they are honest and truthful? Do they say they believe in integrity, transparency and accountability?
So, is it better to have more candidates to choose from? I'm not so sure. It's great that more people are interested in serving on Council, comparing to only one candidate for the mayor, leaving voters having no choices. But there is definitely more work for voters to sort through the lists and select the qualified candidates as the votesare split between too many candidates. One thing is for sure we all need to do our homework on the candidates this time around, so check them out good and early.
Election is an exercise to identify the pretenders and opportunist. Making the wrong choice will mean another four years of wasted time and a lost opportunity to improve the Quality of life for the voters.
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