My weekly column is aimed at giving you more of the story-behind-the-story around the issues and the candidates. I hope you’ll read this section each Friday as I try to break down more barriers to voter participation.
Goal: Engage Calgary voters.
Are you sick of hearing about Ric McIver and Barb Higgins yet? This week, I did a few media interviews on the candidates’ use of social media.
Following one interview, the cameraman wanted to get images of the different websites they were using. I started by showing him some of the sites that I thought were done well. He then asked to see more from McIver and Higgins.
I took him to McIver’s Flickr page. It hadn’t been updated in over a year. I took him to Higgins’s Twitter feed. Not one conversation. These were bad examples, but it’s what he wanted footage of.
I was disappointed he didn’t want to see more from those who were doing it well. Instead he and I had fallen into the two-candidate trap.
So far there are 13 candidates running for mayor, and another 56 running for alderman.
It’s hard to get to know that many people well enough to be able to decide who you trust the most to ensure you have the services from the City you want, at a price you can afford.
And so the two-candidate trap was created.
It’s much easier to only focus on two options. This or that. The American system has been perfected in this manner. Republican or Democrat, those are your only real options.
The problem is, the two-candidate trap is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once the two main options are selected, all others suffer.
But why were McIver and Higgins the two selected to be talked about? The answer is simple: name recognition.
Admit it, when Barb Higgins entered the race you immediate said to yourself, “I know who she is. I think she’d be a lovely/terrible mayor.”
Did you have the same thought when Wayne Stewart entered the race? I’m guessing no, simply because you didn’t know who he was.
But this is not high school. We shouldn’t be selecting our leadership based on popularity.
Calgarians are smart enough to pick a Council based on their ideas for Calgary.
I challenge you, the next time a conversation about the election pops up at the office or the dining room table, to not just talk about the candidates you already know, but to chat about Craig Burrows or Kent Hehr or Naheed Nenshi or Bob Hawkesworth. What makes them better (or worse) than the big two?
Yes, you’re going to have to go learn something about them first.
I also challenge the media to give us the chance to learn about those candidates by not taking the lazy way out and falling into the two-candidate trap.
We’re adults. We can handle more than two options.