The dynamics behind shaping public policy is a crucial topic for elections to remain fair and representational. Influencers such as interest groups are misusing their purpose.
Interest groups are a valuable tool to educate the public and candidates about issues they are concerned with. What is troubling are not the values, nor the intentions of these groups yet the manipulation of the voting public, insidiously supporting certain candidates who sign onto their team’s agenda. Interest groups have strong fundraising and organization ability to influence elections, and the rise of pledges by these organizations is a local municipal issue.
Creating a Divisive Atmosphere
To be clear, these are agenda pushers. During elections they create a divisive atmosphere and try to manipulate the vote and support for their chosen candidates. Who shapes public policies and under what conditions is a critical question in the context of declining voter turnout, and voter apathy. Disarming meaningful public input into public policies is at threat. If candidates bypass citizens in favor of interest groups democracy is at risk.
The Grand Agenda for Groundwater Action recently released a report card on mayoral and city council candidates. Wellington Water Watchers promoted this. Their agenda is commendable, yet the tactics used in the municipal election is worrisome. The twelve-question survey aimed to determine candidates support for the Grand Agenda for Groundwater Action, and specifically asked if they would support a council resolution on several local issues.
If a candidate answered with a comment instead of “Yes” or “No” a question mark placed under the category, visually infers the candidate was against it or not on page. A question mark is punctuation used to tell a reader there are questions, and not a full stop.
Candidates who answered “Yes” received a check mark on the report card, coded in blue. A check mark shows a job well done in most circles, and support. Blue infers conservative and traditional, trying to lead center to right voters to those candidates. Blue is known as a sign of stability and reliability. Blue is the most popular color on the campaign trail and makes us feel like the person agreeing to the questions are smart, together, and trustworthy.
The candidates who answered “No” received a X mark with the color of red, showing negation or a warning about the candidate. Using red grabs attention and infers a warning about a candidate.
Colour can dramatically affect moods, feelings, and emotions. “Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions,” Pablo Picasso mused. Using color in political campaigns to signal action, influence mood, and increase physiological reactions is commonplace.
By using color and punctuation to evoke readers, they are visually manipulating the report card results. The report card purposely motivates voters to support the candidates who agree with their agenda. The visual of this marketing piece throws doubt on candidates who did not agree to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and supplied an independent and thoughtful analysis.
Buried in the report card, is the instruction to click on the candidate’s name to read their answers – then have the link well displayed, with commentary that some candidates had chosen to supply answers. Most candidates responded, and with knowledgeable and detailed answers.
The group asked each candidate to respond yes or no to twelve questions, with many of them worded “if elected, will you support a Council resolution”. Candidates who overwhelming agreed to much of this agenda have allowed an interest group to dictate future council decisions. This is not democratic, nor it the best interest of constituents of Guelph.
Rather than be strong and independent, some candidates blankly agreed to over 90 percent of The Grand Agenda for Groundwater Action agenda> Candidates in this group were Aggie Mlynarz, Jax Thornton, James Gordon, June Hoffland, Phil Allt, Matt Saunders, Eli Ridder, Alex Green, Leanne Piper, Usha Arora and Anshu Khurana. Alarming that these many candidates agreed to act or vote on council according to the dictation of one local group.
Offered Thoughtful and Independent Responses
Mayor Cam Guthrie, Barbara Mann, Charlene Downey, Mary Thring, Dorothe Fair, Rodrigo Goller, Christine Billings, Brendan Clarke, Mike Salisbury, Indu Arora and Mark McKinnon have many questions marks beside their name, leading the reader to question them. Yet all offered thoughtful and independent responses, refusing to the shackles tried by the Grand Agenda for Groundwater.
Candidates who declined to do the survey or did not respond were Lise Burcher, Stacy Cooper, Dominique O’Rourke, Jason Dodge, Patrick Sheridan, Bob Bell, Dave Hefferman, Mark Gernon, and Jamie Killingsworth. Dan Gibson provided a statement in lieu of doing the survey.
Candidates did not supply reasons behind participation nor their non-participation, yet this gives a sign how independent each candidate is, and how they will govern if elected.
The whole point of running for a seat at council table is to bring individual ideas to a collaborative team to make decisions based on studies, reviews, and public engagement. No one can predict or interpret the future, and where discussions or studies will lead decisions.
Signing a pledge or across the board support of an interest group discourages independent thought, it puts limits on council productivity and is undemocratic. When you allow special interest groups to put a straitjacket on you, you are a candidate for that interest group, now tied to the pledge or report card, and carelessly not standing for your ward and the city.
An election vets candidates, and we make individual decisions on that experience.
Do you want interest groups to make the decision for you? If not, look to the candidates who are independent of these influencers.