Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Treading the Line: Candidate Surveys

It probably comes as no surprise that when you become a candidate for public office, everyone wants a little piece of you. As I mentioned about a month ago, the Hamilton and District Labour Council was really on the ball. They sent me their municipal candidate survey exactly one week after I submitted my nomination form.

It was actually quite long and included a lot of long-form answers. I even posted one of my answers about a month ago in this very blog:

The results of the survey are in and while the Labour Council has endorsed Brian McHattie for Mayor (, it would appear that none of us in Ward 13 made the cut.

"There were no endorsements for wards 5, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 15. "When you see no endorsements in those wards, there were just no agreements," said Roman."

It is human nature to want to be liked and so my initial reaction at not earning the endorsement was one of disappointment. 

However, upon further reflection, it occurs to me that endorsements aren't all they're cracked up to be and that "no endorsement" may in fact be the best result. 

With every endorsement, there can be an almost equal and opposite anti-endorsement. Candidates can be perceived as pandering to certain groups and voters may question what exactly may have been "promised", especially if the survey results are not made public.

Speaking from experience, it's fairly easy to tell what sort of response a group is looking to get from the way they frame their questions. As a candidate, you have to tread the line between telling people what they want to hear and staying true to yourself.

The best candidate surveys ask you for answers to questions you hadn't yet asked yourself. These force you to think and do research to understand the topic and come up with a cogent response that is consistent with your beliefs. It's like cross-fit for your brain!

I completed yet another candidate survey this morning. This one was from the Hamilton and District Apartment Association, an advocacy group for Hamilton landlords. The thrust of the thing was to get me to commit to lowering the municipal tax rates for multi-residential units - a complicated issue to say the least.

In the interest of transparency, I'll summarize my responses by saying that I would support lowering the rates but maybe not to the degree that they might like since doing so could shift an even larger tax burden on to residential homeowners. Like I said, it's complicated! (If you want to learn more, you can see the City's summary report here:

Finally, I'll also share with you my answer to the Comment section that came at the end of the survey:

"I am especially interested in creating opportunities for larger purpose built rental units in Ward 13. I understand that it is difficult for families to find an adequate stock of three-bedroom units in Dundas. I believe that wider availability of these larger units would encourage more families to consider moving to Dundas.

I would also like to encourage mixed-income purpose built rental units in Ward 13 since housing costs consume too great a proportion of household income for residents living on fixed or low-incomes."

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