Metro column: Train’s left platform behind

By DJ Kelly August 13, 2010

How long does it take for a candidate to write a policy platform?

Surely, the majority of what goes into their platform are the things that made them want to run for city council in the first place. So shouldn’t it follow that these things would be second nature to them before they declare themselves a candidate?

Barb Higgins recently announced her candidacy without a platform. At her press conference she talked broadly about what she wants to see happen, but gave no details as to how she suggests we accomplish those things. Her response to questions about the Peace Bridge and the auditor debacle? “I look forward to talking about those things.” Apparently, just not that day. And if not that day, then when?

She promised to release her policy platform by Labour Day — although she did announce a high level “framework” yesterday. Until then we just have to guess what her basic opinions on key issues are.

After months of waiting, mayoral front-runner Ald. Ric McIver yesterday released “his vision for Calgary.” This document has been in demand by many as voters try to figure out what the man known as “Dr. No” says “yes” to. McIver’s vision document comes almost three months
after he officially said he wanted the mayor’s job.

With the Internet playing a large role in this election, turn-around time is crucial. Candidates have to be ready to respond to information requests and crises at the drop of a “tweet.” Courage under fire and sticking to your core beliefs are major things we look for in our leaders.

Take McIver’s announcement as an example. After waiting three months, competitor Naheed Nenshi, who has done a very good job articulating his own platform, responded only five hours later with a detailed — albeit somewhat snide — analysis of where he thinks the holes in McIver’s logic are.

For example — “he suggests that we need to enhance transit, but he also voted for the $3 park-and-ride charge, which led to decreased ridership. Which is it — build up the system or discourage people from using it?”

Three months versus five hours.

Whether you agree or disagree with either candidate you can see the problem here. It’s reminiscent of the infamous “3 a.m. phone call” ad Hillary Clinton ran during the last presidential primary in the United States. If it takes a candidate months to come up with something that should be second nature, how long will it take them to rebut legitimate criticism that requires a thoughtful response?

If a candidate doesn’t know what they stand for or they can’t articulate it, they’re going to have a hard time getting elected because voters know what a hard time they’ll have getting anything done if they do get elected.

So far Calgary hasn’t had a good start in this area.