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Discussion Points for a Municipal Election

Here are some topics to discuss, and questions to consider, to help you choose the best candidate in the upcoming election. These lists are part of an excellent book entitled Electing Better Politicians - A Citizen’s Guide by Charles K. Bens.


The book includes short and to-the-point narratives combined with checklists and scorecards for gauging your local candidates, as well as how to be better engaged citizens.


The book is available through Municipal World at 1-888-368-6125 or Municipal World has approved the use of this material.

What You Should be Asking about Candidates:


1. Leadership

  • Is the person open minded?

  • Does he or she have a good track record in leadership?

  • Has he or she received any awards for leadership?

  • Does he or she know when to lead and when to follow?

  • Does he or she exhibit humility?

2. Communication

  • Does the candidate speak candidly and specifically or does he or she seem to dodge the topics?

  • Is the candidate consistent in his or her opinions?

  • Does the candidate use a variety of current communication techniques?

  • Is the candidate truthful and honest not only about issues but also about the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and their opponents?

  • Does the candidate have good speaking and writing skills?


3. Legislative Skills

  • Does the candidate listen to, and incorporate the ideas of others with theirs?

  • Does he or she collaborate with others to find the best solution rather than taking a hard line all the time?

  • Does he or she address issues or concerns in a timely manner?

  • Does he or she use research, open discussion and facts to discuss and resolve an issue?

  • Does he or she understand, separate and respect the differing roles of councillors and staff?

4. Issues

  • Does the candidate have a specific position on important issues and is he or she willing to either defend them or modify them?

  • Does he or she have a track record of consistency on issues and get results with help from all walks of life?

  • Does he or she base positions on facts and with consideration of the long term or is it all here-and-now?

  • Is he or she willing to engage in open discussion throughout the election?

  • Does he or she challenge candidates and voters to think differently about issues?


5. Election Behaviour

  • Is the candidate running a fair and positive campaign?

  • Does the candidate have financial support from trusted and respected sources?

  • Is the candidate campaigning on merit?

  • Is the candidate readily available for voter and media questions?


6. Vision

  • Does the candidate have a clear vision for the community and does it match yours?

  • Does he or she have realistic goals and a realistic plan to achieve them?

  • Is the candidate’s vision/plan consistent with existing plans that have been established via consensus of a cross-examination of the community

  • Is his or her vision affordable?

  • Is his or her vision consistent with other candidates such that there’s a reasonable chance of success?


7. Personal Attributes

  • Is the candidate truthful and open in both business and public endeavours?

  • Is he or she free from obligation to, or pressure from, any special interest group?

  • Has he or she ever spoken or acted in a discriminatory manner?

  • Is he or she respected and endorsed by a cross-section of the community?

  • Is he or she fair and compassionate?


8. Promises

  • Does the candidate make promises that are realistic?

  • Does he or she make promises specific enough to be held accountable for them?

  • Has the candidate ever made unreasonable promises that either don’t withstand media/expert scrutiny or that they cannot explain?

  • Has he or she made put promises in writing and shared them with the entire constituency?

  • Does he or she have a history of keeping promises?


9. Bureaucracy Aptitude

  • Does the candidate make derogatory comments about or threats to staff members?

  • Has he or she made positive comments about staff?

  • Does the candidate have a sound knowledge of how the township’s various departments function?

  • Does he or she support sound planning and display best-practice knowledge?

  • Has he or she spoken to the need for accountability for both staff and elected representatives?


10. Accountability

  • Has the candidate used input from various groups to form his or her platform?

  • Has he or she indicated (or shown) a willingness and method for receiving feedback between elections?

  • Does he or she have a track record for encouraging accountability (surveys, public forums, speak-out sessions)?

  • Does he or she accept criticism and respond appropriately to it?

  • Is he or she able to provide a good explanation in defence of previous actions or proposed ideas?

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