EDITORIAL: Too much party discipline

We have good candidates in Courtenay-Alberni, but you can be forgiven if you can't tell

Federal elections are frustrating beasts for many reasons.

First, there is the never-ending debate about the electoral system. First-past-the-post seems old-fashioned now, something we need to change.

Second, the ridings are vast and varied if you don’t live in a major city. The issues of Tofino are much different than Parksville. There may be no two communities within 60 km of each other in this country that are more different than Port Alberni and Qualicum Beach.

Third, and perhaps the most frustrating, is the home-office-run nature of federal elections, more evident this year than any other in recent memory.

This sing-from-the-Ottawa-hymn-sheet-only attitude not only pushes important local issues to the back burner, it limits what good local candidates can presumably offer.

Our experience this year in providing issue-related stories has been, for the most part, an exercise in repeating, through the mouths of Courtenay-Alberni candidates, what is being said by party leaders. Conservative candidate John Duncan, perhaps because of his experience, has varied a time or two. So has Green Party candidate Glenn Sollitt, perhaps because, well, his party is the freshest of the bunch and unencumbered by decades of big-machine politics.

Gord Johns of the NDP and Carrie Powell-Davidson of the Liberals have stuck to the party line almost exclusively, in our view.

Perhaps that’s how it should be. Perhaps this election is more about who may be prime minister, who will hold power in Ottawa.

All four of these candidates are to be commended for having the courage of their convictions. It takes no small amount of guts to put your name on a ballot. And all four of them seem to be solid people who really care about the riding and its people.

Seems to us we are being short-changed, in a way, from a better debate and introduction of ideas about how this little part of the country can get better, due to national party discipline. Label us naive if you like, but to accept the status quo is to stagnate. Canadians need to ask more, not less, from our candidates and their parties.

There are good reasons why all of these Courtenay-Alberni candidates put their names forward. They are sharp, community-minded people who have much to offer. What good does it do to stifle them?

— Editorial by John Harding

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