FRANK LEONARD: Endorsements may not matter

Longtime mayor stays away from upper-level political endorsements

’Tis the season for politicians endorsing other politicians.

A provincial election is upon us and as is the case in federal elections, it is a time when I get asked to endorse candidates.

I’ve been asked to endorse candidates seeking nominations and I’ve been asked to endorse nominated candidates in ridings within Saanich and even in ridings that are outside of Saanich’s boundaries.

I don’t endorse anyone running for provincial or federal office.

The first reason is that I believe remaining independent is how I can serve Saanich best; and the second reason is that I don’t think they matter anyway.

When I became mayor of Saanich I dropped my membership in political parties and withdrew from active involvement in party events.

This was not the case when I was a councillor – I was indeed active in party politics.

However, I decided that my role as mayor is different, that I speak on behalf of council and all the people of Saanich.

This  requires me to work with whoever is elected federally and provincially.

I just couldn’t see how an MLA or MP would be too helpful to me or to Saanich if I’d been out in the campaign trying to defeat them.

It’s not that I still don’t have favourites – it is just that I keep this private and not part of my public life.

So, despite the many requests for endorsements, some of them from friends, I decline them all and explain these reasons.

Yet it seems I’m “old school” as other mayors make political endorsements and some get quite involved.

In a recent federal election, then MP Gary Lunn recruited endorsements from mayors on the Saanich Peninsula. This led to some controversy and I was glad to not be a part of it.

Ironically, one MP and two MLAs chose to endorse my opponent in the last election for mayor.  Although some of their supporters expressed regret to me that they would have preferred their MP and MLA had stayed out of civic politics, I presume they’ll do it again.

Nonetheless, I’m sticking to my instincts and I will not be endorsing any candidates in this provincial election.

What I find interesting is that I don’t think these endorsements matter. I think voters make up their own minds and wouldn’t change their vote because a mayor endorsed a particular candidate.

Certainly I would never change my vote because I saw one politician endorse another one. It reminds me of all the “elites” who endorsed the Charlottetown Accord, but the voters ignored them and defeated it.

So what do you think?

Do you think your mayor should be active in the provincial or federal election? Do you think your MP or MLA should be involved in civic elections? Do you think endorsements even matter?

Let me know by responding on the Victoria News website or on Twitter @frank_leonard and use the hashtag #mayorsview so we can all take part in the discussion.

Frank Leonard is the mayor of Saanich.