When Barb Higgins announced a couple of weeks ago that she would be the twelfth candidate running for mayor, you could hear people saying all over the city the same thing: “Hey, I know her.” And in Canadian politics, that may be enough to win.
While political scientists will probably have my head for saying this, we are currently living in a democracy ruled by the un-informed voter. After hours of Farmville, Big Brother 12 and re-reading Twilight, voters simply don’t have the time to study the candidates, let alone learn their names. So when Election Day comes around and they hopefully head to the polls, voters will likely look for the name they recognize. Advantage Higgins.
But Barb isn’t just running on name recognition alone. Her vague seven-point platform is eerily similar to that of a teenager running for high school student council. All that is missing is her promise of a MuchMusic video dance, which would naturally secure my vote.
According to her website biography, besides reading the news, Higgins has absolutely zero political experience. So it might be safe to say that she believes her celebrity in Calgary allows her to leapfrog the usual steps that lead up to mayor. Just ask John Mar, who is already patiently waiting in the wings and playing the thankless role of alderman. In a day and age when celebrities regularly run for office, Barb’s actions are actually quite common.
The name recognition factor puts many established politicians and community activists at a disadvantage. I’m sorry, but celebrities in office are just more fun. I for one would love it if more of Calgary’s celebrities ran for mayor. I’m talking to you, Jann Arden or Brett Wilson. CityTV’s Jill Belland regularly wins Sexiest Calgarian, surely that should be enough to secure her at least an aldermanic seat.
However, just because there is a celebrity in the mix, it doesn’t mean the other candidates should give up. They just have to work extra hard at making sure the average voter knows who they are and somehow match the recognition that comes with Higgins' 20 years at CTV. Of course, the obvious choice would be a sex tape, but given this year’s crop of candidates, I’m sure no one would be interested. (Sorry, Rick McIver.)
So if candidates want to win this election, they’ll need to be well known, personable and most importantly, have a really funny Twitter account. I guess an aggressive and solid platform would be fine, too.
Correction - Aug. 16, 2010, 10:45 am MST: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled John Mar's name. It has since been corrected.