As soon as the results were in from the November 2011 municipal election, the campaigning for the next one in 2014 began, says a Maple Ridge councillor.
“Absolutely, slate politics are being organized right now,” said Coun. Cheryl Ashlie.
She was told at the first Lower Mainland Local Government Association meeting after the 2011 election that a group was being formed and that a shadow council was being created.
Most recently, some members of Maple Ridge Council Watch, a Facebook group, have attended two council meetings and Tweeted the proceedings using the hashtag #mrpoli.
Ashlie has no problem with people disagreeing with elected officials.
“But if you’re a politician in waiting, be honest about it – because you’re trying to unseat people. You have a different agenda if you’re trying to get a seat away from people.”
But it’s hard to follow the proceedings of a meeting and send out accurate Tweets, she pointed out.
A slate can involve a cross section of political parties from the provincial and federal level, she added.
“Just because you’re Conservative, you’re NDP, you’re Liberal, doesn’t mean you don’t collectively come together as a partisan group for a municipal slate.”
Former Maple Ridge school trustee Katherine Wagner said she formed Council Watch to serve as a way of allowing council watchers to meet in one place and to discuss local political issues.
She doesn’t consider it a slate, but an open group composed of a range of political views.
“I think people who are interested in politics, naturally talk to each other.”
It also would be “fabulous” if more people paid attention to local politics, she added.
“I think the beauty of it is there is a wide range of opinions.”
But there are people in the group with set opinions who she’d expect to run in the next election.
Instead of trying to defeat councillors, people in Maple Ridge Council Watch could just be seeking a change in how council operates, rather than take their jobs.
“If people are trying to hold you to account, it’s very easy to deflect that,” by saying they’re after your job.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin wasn’t worried about slates or Council Watch and welcomed the attention to municipal politics.
“I’ve heard rumours, anecdotal stories that people are doing that,” creating a slate.
He said the Council Watch groups “create some interest” and wasn’t bothered by the commentary.
“If people read these things and they e-mail or call … I think that can be constructive and positive.”