Clock is ticking on municipal elections

With the potential for some excitement in the Cobourg mayorality race after local lawyer Martin Partridge filed his papers yesterday, the timing suddenly seemed significant.

In the past,  the first day after the Labour Day weekend in September was often considered the official start day for municipal elections in Ontario. Generally, candidates would wait and file in late August for a tactical advantage. While major urban centres like Toronto might see some political action prior to this, for the vast majority, this was the case. Election Day was always the second Tuesday of November, giving candidates about 10 weeks of campaigning.

Not this time.

October 25 is Election Day this year, a full two week earlier. And, depending on the ballot system being used, it could be even earlier. Take for example Cobourg’s efforts to have a completely digital system. Voting will begin well in advance as there will not be any paper ballots or in-person voting. It will all be done via touch-tone phone and the Internet.

All this means less time for campaigning. For Cobourg, it theoretically leave only six weeks. For others, maybe seven weeks.

So far, candidates are filing, but not in any great numbers. Names are still being bantered about and the field is less than full. With maybe a few exceptions, there are no signs of campaigns underway, save the odd profile in the local newspapers.

This is a major concern. How are issues of importance going to be discussed with such a tight timeline? Nothing of substance will get a full airing. And, there will be no room for mistakes. Any screw up will cost a campaign dearly, leaving the field wide open for dirty tricks and mudslinging.

There is an old political adage that says you should never hold an election around summer time because nobody pays attention. They are too busy being on vacation. However, the cost to our democracy may be very dear if we don’t start seeing something going on.

This is the summer of our discontent. There are so many issues that need to be debated. Incumbents need to be held accountable. And, those running for the first time need scrutiny. Voters deserve more than platitudes, smoke, mirrors and distractions, along with the usual drivel foist on us in Northumberland County.

Let the campaign being, NOW!

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