The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – Dec. 4, 2013
Advanced polls have closed and voting will soon be underway to elect a city councilor to represent Ward 7, which has been without representation since the summer.
Former Coun. Percy Hatfield jumped ship from municipal to provincial waters leaving 11 candidates vying for the seat, and inundating residents with a heavy field of campaign literature, signage and door knocking.
Cheryl Collier, University of Windsor political science professor, explained that byelections aren’t of the most importance at the municipal level.
“[Byelections] offer people an opportunity if you’re talking about partisan politics to send a message to the government that’s in power, but we don’t even have partisan. politics in this case,” said Collier. “This was a different kind of beast I suppose.”
While the byelection is generating significant media buzz, Collier doesn’t expect a high voter turnout and said a significant outcome of the election will be giving the winner a leg up on the competition in the 2014 general election.
Collier noted that this byelection was interesting because all candidates are running against each other and not an incumbent.
“This is a brand new opening for people to get their foot in the door on city council and [in politics],” said Collier. “A lot of people like to start with the municipal level and use that as a springboard to other levels of politics… I think that’s the main reason you’ve got 11 candidates in this byelection.”
With 11 candidates, Collier noted that name recognition would provide a “big advantage” to the candidates as opposed to “others that might be brand new to politics. and have a little bit of work cut out for them to be noticed in the field of 11.”
Several candidates running don’t live in the ward they hope to represent and Collier noted that this could affect the votes of residents.
“[Voters] would prefer having somebody who lives in the ward, that understands the ward issues, that are long time residents and want to represent those people,” said Collier. “But representation isn’t just about living in a ward and understanding the interests of that particular geographic boundaries.”
Increasingly, voter apathy plagues Canadian elections and Collier noted that it can be fueled by cynicism among many other reasons.
Ward 7 resident Yousef Hamden, 24, who is in traditionally one of the most apathetic age demographics, brought a friend with him to cast their ballots during advanced polling.
Hamden considers himself politically active and voted for Irek Kusmierczyk because he liked both his campaign and personality.
“There’s a large field for this byelection and it was hard to go through all of the platforms, so I listened to the debates,” said Hamden. “I met [Kusmierczyk] before and he struck me as a pretty charismatic guy. He’s a young guy which is a little bit different than a lot of the other candidates…[he] had a good debate against the others and, just by process of elimination, some of the other candidates didn’t appeal to me.”
Hamden wasn’t impressed that all of the candidates didn’t show up to all of the public debates.
“I’m not looking for a candidate to make a world of difference, it’s kind of hard in municipal politics,” said Hamden. “I’m looking for someone to step up and have a responsible role for us and speak up for the community. Some of these candidates. are promising jobs. I don’t think you can do that as a councillor; your role is limited. I hope that they can make an impact.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.