To the Editor,
In the fall of 2018 I was asked to take part in a survey that was sent to Mayors and Councillors who were candidates in the municipal election. This survey was conducted by two department heads of political science. One from the University of Amsterdam and the other from McGill University. The objective of the survey was to better understand candidates’ backgrounds, their views and opinions on issues in their communities, along with the motivation that led them to run for office.
There were 1,753 candidates invited to take part with 596 candidates responding from 136 different municipalities around the Province of B.C.
Men composed the larger sample of 337 while women respondents were at 188. Experience in politics varied with the largest group - 196 - running in their first election. Many candidates – 104 - reported being in politics between one to five years, with 78 being involved in politics five to 10 years and 169 being involved in politics for more than a decade.
Most candidates were 50 and older (55.5 per cent) with a smaller proportion who were younger than 30 years old (18.3 per cent).
Candidates motivation came in with 435 (73 per cent) responded to “contribute to advancing my community,” while a minority of respondents were driven by the frustration with the current state of politics (25.8 per cent). Or the belief that they have the qualities that can serve their community (50.7 per cent).
Barriers to running for election came in at: 299 experienced no barriers, 73 women reported gender barrier, 30 reported religion as a barrier and 22 reported sexual identity as a barrier.
Opinions were gathered on four different topics. Two of these topics related to voting in municipal elections - support for online voting and lowering the age to 16 in municipal elections. The two remaining questions dealt with policies toward certain groups of employees in municipal administration - preferential hiring policies for women and support for banning religious symbols.
On average, candidates supported implementing online voting with support at 54.52 per cent but were opposed to lowering the age limit. Deciding on regulations affecting municipal employees, respondents were split on whether or not to support preferential hiring of women (support was at 51.67 per cent)) but were strongly opposed to implementing a ban on municipal employees wearing religious symbols (level of support was 24.17 per cent).
This sample survey shows the varied opinions and experience at the local government level for those who want to serve their community.