Red Deer First in uncharted territory
A slate of municipal election candidates running under one banner are entering into uncharted territory, says a local political science professor.
Red Deer College professor David Baugh said the Red Deer First group would likely be the first of its kind in the city.
On Tuesday the group of possibly eight Red Deer city council hopefuls announced intentions to run with the same platform in the Oct. 21 civic election.
“It’s fairly unusual,” said Baugh. “You don’t usually see parties at the municipal level.”
An exception would be Vancouver where one mayor and 10 councillors are elected in an at large system.
The population of Vancouver is 603,500 compared to Red Deer with 91,877 denizens according to 2011 census data.
Council is elected in an at-large system as opposed to a ward system, which is typical of large municipalities.
“To make it easier for voters they have an effective party system,” said Baugh.
The Red Deer First members have said they are not a party but simply a group of like-minded individuals who share the same philosophies and principles that want to bring change.
In Vancouver, for example, there is the central right leaning Non-Partisan Association (NPA) and the left leaning Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE). Council members are affiliated with locally-based party groups in an at-large system.
“I think if there is a ward system in Red Deer, I think it should be interpreted as an alternative of grappling with the same problem that the proponents for a plebiscite on a ward system are working on,” said Baugh. “They each want to simplify choices for voters.”
Baugh said there is just too much information for voters to process when there is a long list of candidates in the running with no parties. He said one way to make it easier for voters would to have a ward system or to run a slate.
“It works in Vancouver because there are two parties,” said Baugh. “One on the right and one on the left. They kind of balance each other. If you only have one party in Red Deer . . . for Red Deer it’s uncharted territory. It would depend on how the voters would respond in that situation.”
Baugh said it is interesting that the ward system and the slate may come to the floor at the same time. A petition will begin circulating in Red Deer soon that calls on Red Deer city council to put a plebiscite question about ward systems on the civic ballot.
“It’s interesting to note that Vancouver does not have a ward system and they have a party system,” said Baugh. “I think it would be probably one or the other. Either you have a ward system or if you don’t you look at other means to simplify choices.”