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EDITORIAL: Individuals, not parties, will form local governments

In most parts of B.C., candidates in local government elections run as independents
In most of British Columbia, candidates in local government elections are not running under party banners. (Black Press file photo)

On Oct. 15, voters around British Columbia will elect individuals to serve on municipal councils, regional districts and school boards.

The candidates are running as independents, not members of parties. During their campaigns, they have been promoting their platforms and policies rather than representing political parties.

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The notable exception in British Columbia is Vancouver, where a partisan system has been in place for decades.

There are times when a group of candidates in a community will run as a slate if they have a common approach to a significant issue. However, these slates are less structured and less permanent than formal political parties.

The absence of a party system in most of British Columbia affects the dynamics of a local government and the relationship between elected members and the public. While candidates campaign on points of policy, direction or vision for the community, these platforms do not necessarily fall under traditional party platforms or ideological positions. In addition, questions of a candidate’s character and knowledge of the community become prominent in the absence of parties.

As a result, local government elections tend to be more nuanced than under a party system.

The non-party model has been in place in most British Columbia municipalities for many years. Could a similar model work at the provincial or federal levels?

In Canada, the territorial governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories do not have political parties. Decision making is based on a consensus model. British Columbia operated with a non-party government system for more than 30 years, from 1871 until 1903. Since then, an array of parties have been part of the province’s political landscape.

While various governing models can be examined and considered, the more important question to consider is whether the government system in place, at the municipal, provincial or federal level, is able to represent the wishes of the public.

This is at the heart of any functioning democratic government.

— Black Press

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