As long as we have no slate names on ballots there will continue to be a huge advantage for sitting incumbents in local elections. The time has come for people to get serious about having slates and ideally slates that go across municipal boundaries.
If you are in the loop, you know which people on your local council are allies and where they sit on the political spectrum, but most people are not that connected. Because of the low amount of ongoing media coverage of the councils in this region, the public really does not know what the council is doing where they live, let alone the council where they work or play. A large number of people will not go and vote in the municipal elections because they have no idea who the candidates are and what they stand for.
With the use of slates, if Bob Smith of the Civic Fruits is someone I like and back, I then know who is allies are in the race and may therefore vote for them. Without a slate I would go in vote Bob Smith and then vote for the names I recognize, almost all of those will be sitting councilors. Bob may have managed to get me to vote for him, but at the same time I am likely to have given 5/8ths of a vote on average to each of the sitting incumbents. Bob is effectively giving more than half a vote to each sitting incumbent when he goes out and campaigns.
I can hear say "but Bernard, people do not have to vote all 8 of their votes." (8 is the number of councilors in my municipality) The reality is that the large majority of people do not like to plump their ballot, which is to only vote one or couple of your votes. It is very beneficial to any candidate you really support. I know from personal experience people do not want to do this, they think it is some how unfair or not right. I ran twice for council elsewhere and suffered each time because people would not plump their ballot. This means candidates are always campaigning for others in local elections. The choice they have is to make clear who they would like to vote for or simply accept the public will vote for the incumbents.
Beyond a level playing field, slates would also boost voter turnout. Voter turnout in the last election has a close co-relation with population. Victoria, Saanich, and most of the Westshore were under 27%. Metchosin and North Saanich were over 50%. In Vancouver where there are clear slates, voter turnout has ranged from 31% to 52% over the last 30 years. Other large lower mainland municipalities have tended to do better than that Saanich and Victoria.
The use of a slate allows for a way to have the media cover the election more effectively. Right now with so many races in the region and everyone running as their own person, there is physically no way for the media to give them any real coverage. The TC and CFAX, the core of our regional media, end up only offering a small amount of coverage to the races. This lack of coverage is the major reason why during the 2008 elections this website got a lot of traffic.
A slate name that crosses municipal boundaries sends a signal of a common approach to regional issues which I think is very important within the CRD. I really doubt this will happen.
If you are running for council in Victoria, Saanich or Langford, you will actively harm your campaign if you do not get a slate name on the ballot. There is no earthly reason for a non-incumbent to run as an independent in those three municipalities unless your goal is to lose. I think that slates would be beneficial for people running in the rest of the municipalities other than Metchosin and Highlands, certainly it would do no harm to a candidate in somewhere like Oak Bay to organize a slate.
Also, is you have a slate, you need to run a full slate. Each spot you do not contest is one vote that will go to a sitting incumbent. You need the full slate to reduce the leakage of votes to the sitting councilors.
Creating a slate is easy, all it takes is to get 50 eligible electors in a municipality to join an organization before the middle of August this year. You can create a new one very easily and it does not have to be registered society, the people just have to agree they are members and you have to have a president or such.