View From City Hall: Making meaning out of elections

I love watching democracy in action and being reminded the true power lies in the collective choice of voters and not in those they elect.

Although I can find them stressful, I must admit I love elections.

I love watching democracy in action and being reminded the true power lies in the collective choice of voters and not in those they elect. 

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I worry a lot, though, about party politics. I wish we were better at expressing our differences of opinion with respect and civility. I wish we did not diminish others personally when we disagree. And I wish we put a much greater emphasis on finding common ground.

This is why I love being a city councillor. Obviously, council members have differences in opinion. Yet our culture, built up over decades, is to look for ways to collaborate and to not make our differences personal. We act as nine individuals contributing to a team approach to representing Kamloops citizens.

I’ve run in five civic elections, one federal election, four elections for boards of local government associations and two elections to university bodies.

All these experiences have led me to certain beliefs about election candidates. It’s important to have solid name recognition, to meet as many voters as you can, to work as hard as any other candidate and to be authentic to yourself.

I also think, more than ever, it’s important to be bold. 

While in the past, electoral fortune may have come to people who tried to upset as few people as possible, today’s voter seems to favour candidates who have a strong set of values and ideas. 

It is important to have optimism and hope, especially once elected. Negative campaigning may work, but it’s a soul-destroying foundation on which to build elected service.

It is easy to tear things down. It’s hard and fulfilling to build people up. 

An important note about those who help run and work in Kamloops civic elections — in all the elections in which I have participated, I have been incredibly impressed by the integrity and professionalism of these amazing citizens.

Today, when I look around our physically distanced, makeshift council table in the Valley First Lounge at Sandman Centre, I see valued colleagues and friends.

Moreover, though, I try to think about the people who voted for my colleagues in 2018 and the greater number of people we collectively represent. 

Elections, especially federal and provincial campaigns, can be quite nasty.

And that nastiness can find its way into how citizens look at politicians. I can guarantee you every person I have served with on council wants to do right by the community. Nasty communication, especially immediately after an election can be very off-putting and are often not effective.  

The pandemic has undoubtedly been tough on many Kamloopsians.

City council has been challenged in making big decisions in a fast-changing, uncertain environment without the ability to spend as much time together.

I hope we have been up to this challenge. I’m so thankful to city hall staff for their great work supporting council and the community. 

We are going through a very challenging time right now, but I am confident we will get through it. 

Voters sometimes make mistakes in who they elect. I think, though, this happens exceedingly rarely.

I’ve often marvelled at the diverse, competent groups Kamloops citizens have elected to council. 

Arjun Singh is a Kamloops councillor. Council columns appear monthly in the print edition of KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com. Singh’s email is asingh@kamloops.ca. To comment on this column, email editor@kamloopsthisweek.com.

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