Political Boot Camp

Let the campaigning begin!

Soon, political candidates will be released from the starting gate to begin a race to next October’s finish line and a seat at Collingwood’s council table.

A good friend, former Collingwood resident and long-time media colleague Ken Swirsky triggered this conversation as to whether a Candidate Boot Camp for perspective Collingwood councilors would be a good idea when he spoke to Sarnia City Council on Tuesday December 5th.

Swirsky worked in Barrie for CKBB 950 and here in Collingwood at CKCB 1400 in the late 1960’s and again in the 1970’s. He was a member of the CHAY-FM sign-on team in 1977. He has deep roots in our community. His grandfather, Charles Arthur Kennedy was wounded in 1917 front line fighting in the First World War.

He moved to Sarnia over 30 years ago to work in radio management for CKJD and CJFI-FM, CKTY and The Fox radio, and later as Associate Publisher of the Sarnia Gazette newspaper. He has been following municipal politics for over fifty years.

Swirsky is concerned that Sarnia Council isn’t working hard enough to provide taxpayers with the best case scenario in budget planning. He suggested councilors investigate test beds and pilot projects that are already in place to cut costs and still deliver essential services in other communities.

“We can do better. Let’s all work together. You’re going to be judged next year at this time. What legacy do you want to leave? I know you want to leave a great one.”

Listening to Ken’s presentation, I drew the conclusion that he feels council is setting the bar too low when it comes to fiscal responsibilities. Why? Is it laziness? Were key discussion points missed? Or, is it a case of lack of education and training making councillors less effective than they could and should be.

He suggested that the City of Sarnia consider establishing a Candidate Boot Camp to better educate council wannabes and incumbents alike in areas such as policy and budget planning, and in general, laying out the details as to what is required for a candidate to properly fill a chair and properly serve at the table.

With the campaigning season almost upon us, I wondered if such an undertaking would be a good idea in Collingwood.

No doubt there are many people considering throwing their hats into the political ring. Some however may get cold feet, not knowing what exactly would be expected of them and quite frankly if they would be up to the task.

There actually is a web site called “Candidate Boot Camp” that is filled with information for anyone to munch on should he or she be considering running for political office.

The first question asked is an obvious one. “Are you ready?”

Four years at the Collingwood council table is a considerable investment in time. A candidate needs to consider the research and preparation time necessary prior to every council and committee meeting. Then, there is the post-council and post-committee time commitment where the candidate delivers on decisions made.

In addition, the candidate needs to consider what impact the demands of being a councillor will put on his or her family and job. A retired person needs to consider how the position would impact travel plans and rounds of golf!

Fundraising is another issue to consider. Are you willing to take donations from local business people, friends, developers, or are you prepared to go it alone. Not only are financial considerations important but your connections to those individuals who donate to your campaign may become a speed bump down the political road.

Yes, there is a lot to consider when planning a run for political office. Not everyone will enjoy being in the public spotlight all day, every day.

Let’s be honest. Over the years we have all identified a municipal official at the council chamber who has appeared to be ill-equipped for the position.

A political boot camp may not be a bad idea at all.

Paul Richards is a retired radio programmer and media freelancer. We’d like to hear from you. Contact us!

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