If we want more good people to run for city council, we should change the system

All you have to do to run in the municipal election is quit your job or take an unpaid leave of absence, wave goodbye to your family and knock on more doors than an old-fashioned encyclopaedia salesman for six months.

If you’re up against the incumbent councillor or mayor, your opponent will be getting paid by taxpayers while you earn nothing. And we wonder why more good people aren’t attracted to local politics. Running for council is a months-long, public job interview that takes people well outside their comfort zones and gives huge advantages to established candidates, the independently wealthy and people without the demands of busy family lives.

If we really want a wide range of good people choosing to serve in local government, we should consider shortening election campaigns, lowering spending limits and reducing the expectation that councillors and the mayor appear at hundreds of events. And maybe a party system that allows outsiders to leverage an established brand rather than have to build their own from nothing. Until then, don’t be surprised if a lot of people choose not to put themselves through a long ordeal for only a small chance at winning.

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