(THE NEWS/files) Election signs at the corner of Lougheed Highway and Maple Meadows Way in Maple Ridge.

MacDuff’s Call: Do your research on candidates

They deserve more than ‘garbage chatter’ on social media.

As we head into the final days leading up to the Oct. 20 municipal elections, I really struggled on what I wanted to write about, as there are so many moving parts in a campaign that it is impossible to cover them all at once.

Therefore, I had to settle on the parts that I believe are key. You will need to forgive me to some degree, as I did touch on some before. But I believe they are worth repeating.

Throughout B.C., many voters are still determining who they are going to select for mayor, council and school board, and political pundits and ‘arm-chair’ experts alike are escalating their views on social media and in print regarding candidates and the issues relevant to the electoral areas they are targeting.

Many of the conversations, if informed, are beneficial to those less so, voters searching for insight into who they should select. But there is also an online presence focused on feeding misinformation and engaging in useless sniping and downright nastiness that everyone would be well-served to avoid.

Fellow columnist Vicki McLeod wrote an excellent opinion piece last week, Untrending: Please Park the Anger, and I believe she eloquently addresses the challenging and often negative environment that candidates are having to navigate within social media, as well as the public, who are trying to determine fact from fiction regarding candidate profiles and performances.

And if I can offer any advice as both a past candidate and as a voter who fully researches who I am going to vote for, in order to avoid the litany of misinformation that is contained on social media sites, do your own research and don’t rely on those sites for accurate information.

I mentioned before, I believe accurate information is important when selecting your candidates, and depending on sites that allow a lot of speculative commentary about candidates is not providing the accuracy all candidates deserve.

I have been on the receiving end of that type of commentary and I would never want anyone else to be put through that.

People who have put their names forward to run for an elected position, and voters, deserve more than the ‘garbage chatter’ that has emerged on social media.

Sites that are allowing posts that belittle candidates by doctoring video clips to mock how they speak, or by posting 30-year-old high school photos of someone and making fun of the person’s hairstyle are feeding into a culture of cyber-bullying that is seriously affecting our society and they should be ignored.

Instead of going to these sites, please take the time to contact candidates directly, host a coffee party and invite them to speak with your friends and family, research their website and Facebook pages.

Look for legitimate coverage that is held to a professional standard, such as the paper, or at minimum, organizations that have taken the time to reach out to candidates with purposeful questions to inform their members on candidate views, such as was done by Alouette River Management Society, which will post all of the answers on its website by Oct. 13.

Other organizations, such as the local chamber of commerce, have already hosted debates for each community and those can still be seen on its website. There is also an all-candidates debate occurring on Oct. 15, hosted by Webster’s Corners Community Association.

With 39 candidates running in Maple Ridge and 16 running in Pitt Meadows, collectively, for office, there is no shortage of candidates and they are working hard to get your vote. The least we can do is reach out for information on them and try to be an informed voter.

Personally, researching the candidates is usually the best way to formulate your own opinion, as you truly get a sense of what they plan to bring to the table. However, there is also nothing wrong with reaching out to friends and family who are more inclined to research to a greater degree than you may have the time for.

Regardless of how you do your research and decide on your candidates, which I really hope you do, as we need to get voter turn out above 31 per cent, when the polls close at 8 p.m., the end result of a democratic process will take place and all of the candidates deserve to be thanked for putting their names forward.

Cheryl Ashlie is a former Maple Ridge school trustee, city councillor, constituency assistant and former citizen of the year.

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