When the public casts their ballots on Nov. 19, the choices made will shape the future of Abbotsford for the next three years.
But how do voters know if they’re supporting the right candidates?
It’s a dilemma local researcher Sherril Guthrie is attempting to solve.
Guthrie has created an evaluation guide for local voters, which she hopes will allow people to make more informed choices.
“It’s a poorly kept secret that many voters base their decisions on criteria as flimsy as name recognition, likability, even appearance. Some voters routinely consider a candidate’s membership in a social group, church or organization as important,” she said.
In order to create effective criteria for the role of mayor and councillor, Guthrie enlisted the help of 20 of Abbotsford’s community leaders. Participants were selected based on experience and knowledge of business, agriculture, education, social services, the environment, culture, the arts and politics.
“Too many people believe their vote won’t make a difference. If the guide helps to change that attitude, then it’s definitely worthwhile,” said one research participant.
Each were given draft materials consisting of a list of 16 issues to rate, a list of qualifications and a sample guide. From their input, a one-page guide was created, allowing voters to rate candidates on each of the 10 job qualifications. The rating system goes from one to five (one meaning not qualified and five meaning qualified) for a total possible score of 50 points.
The higher the score, the better the politician’s potential.
The 10 categories are broken into three different groups – knowledge, skills, and personal strengths.
In the knowledge portion, voters can rate candidates on how well they know the issues, the city (including history, diversity, trends, population growth, etc.) and legislation (community charter, municipal act, agricultural land reserve, etc.).
“You can’t do the job unless you have that solid foundation of knowledge of the issues the community faces,” said Guthrie.
She said many people don’t realize how much legislation is related to the job of mayor and council, and candidates have to know the proper process.
The second section of the evaluation form features five topics focusing on skills, including communication, comprehension of finances, problem solving, diplomacy and organization.
The final two evaluation points fall under the personal strengths category, including candidate qualities (honest, fair, trustworthy) and track record (related experience).
Guthrie is hopeful that the public will find her project useful. It does require work on the part of each voter, but she feels it is worth it to avoid the potential consequences of having an unqualified individual in office.
Guthrie said she took on this project because she is a concerned taxpayer. She was not funded or supported by any political party or other organization.
As part of the research project, the 20 community leaders were asked to rate the top issues facing the new Abbotsford council.
The group concluded that the priority concerns were:
1. water supply;
2. municipal taxes and spending;
3. (tie) balance on city council and transportation;
4. (tie) salaries of municipal employees, affordable housing and public safety; and
5. (tie) environmental stewardship, new residential and commercial development, current crime strategies, Abbotsford’s participation in two regional districts.
To download a copy of the evaluation form click on the link below and follow the instructions:
To view the evaluation documents created by Guthrie click on the link below.