“It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs.” (Albert Einstein)
The decision to run for political office in your community can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences one can have. So what are the requirements to run for political office in BC? Basically, if you are qualified to vote in a general election (BC Voters Guide), and you have not been disqualified, you are eligible to run for office.
Requirements For Office
The basic requirements are:
- Must be 18 or older
- A Canadian citizen
- A resident of British Columbia for at least 6 months prior to the election
More information on BC election rules, requirements, procedures etc, can be found in the Municipal Elections BC FAQ. There are also some people who are specifically disqualified from voting or running for local office. Details on who is disqualified can be found in:
Ok, so you have made it this far. You determined that you are qualified and you’ve decided to run for office in the upcoming Squamish 2011 Municipal Election. Now what? We can probably assume you have a passion and love for Squamish, and you are running for office in order to play a role in the evolution, development and sustainable future of our community. There is no doubt that passion, a love for the community and commitment make up the core emotional and motivational requirements to run for office. But it takes far more than passion to be an effective leader and representative of your community. Remember, the decisions you make, or play a role in, effect the lives of over 17,000 people and so this significant responsibility should not be treated lightly. As a candidate for any municipal seat in Squamish, you will need an EDUCATION on important documents and issues facing our community. And for the first time in Squamish’s history, technologies and tools for engaging with the community are likely to be fundamental to the success of any election campaign and so you will need to get up to speed on, and utilize new COMMUNICATION tools.
First and foremost you need to EDUCATE YOURSELF on many important policies, procedures, reports and local issues. There are numerous provincial and municipal Acts, policies, reports and other documents you will need to become familiar with in order to comply with provincial or municipal regulations and to ensure you have a solid understanding of the important issues facing Squamish.
Municipal Government Acts/Rules/Guides
- Local Government Act (BC)
- Candidate’s Guide – Local Elections in British Columbia
- Campaign Organizer & Elector Organization Guide
For the most part, the Candidate’s Guide gives you a pretty good overview of how to run for office as well as how to properly manage, document and organize your campaign. For those of you who plan to finance and operate a comprehensive election campaign, you also will need to familiarize yourself with the Campaign Organizer & Elector Organization Guide.
But we are certainly not finished with the education process. The three documents above cover the basics for any municipal election in BC. Now you need to consider all the local Squamish issues, documents, reports and policies you will be expected to understand, follow, support or in some cases actually implement. There is no getting around the large number of documents, reports or policies you will be required to read and understand. Your commitment to the community of Squamish and all of its’ residents, as well as your success come election day, will in part be measured by your familiarity with, and understanding of, many of these documents and so you should be prepared for lots of reading.
District of Squamish Municipal Office
Over the years Squamish has produced or funded numerous reports, strategies and policies to help guide the direction we take as a community as we move into the future. Below are some of the key reports and policies which every candidate for office should become intimately familiar with. Although these are public documents, not all of them are available in a digital format online and so those marked as (DOS Office) must be requested and picked up at the Municipal Office.
Critical DOS Reports
- DOS Official Community Plan
- DOS Annual Reports (2010, 2009, 2008, 2007)
- DOS Community Profile
- DOS Service Squamish Initiative (2010 Report, January 2011 Update)
- DOS 2011 Budget – Operational and Capital (DOS Office)
- DOS 5 Year Financial Plan (DOS Office)
- Zoning Bylaw (DOS Office and/or CivicWeb)
- Subdivision Development Control Bylaw (DOS Office and/or CivicWeb)
- Long-term Financial Plan (DOS Office and/or CivicWeb)
- Downtown Sub Area Plan (Part of OCP)
Historical Planning Documents
- Downtown Squamish Concept Plan (2005)
- Downtown Squamish Neighbourhood Plan (May 2008 DRAFT)
- Squamish Downtown Waterfront Initiative (2004)
- Smart Growth on the Ground Charrette 2005 (Kickoff, Results)
- Squamish Estuary Management Plan (2007, 2009)
- Oceanfront Sub Area Plan (Schedule N – Bylaw 2157/2010)
- Waterfront Landing Comprehensive Development Zone (No. 40)
Meetings & Hearings
There is no escaping the reality, the necessity, and importance of municipal meetings. As a candidate for office you will need to start going to Council meetings and Committee of the Whole meetings IMMEDIATELY. Regular Council meetings are at 6pm on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month (Oct 18, Nov 1 & Nov 15). There are often special council meetings on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month and are usually held in the evenings as well. Check the DOS website and the 2011 Council Meeting Schedule for more information. Committee of the Whole meetings are most Tuesday’s, usually 1-5pm. But times and dates vary so check the DOS website and CivicWeb for schedules, agendas and minutes.
Upcoming Public Hearings
- The Zoning Bylaw (Nov 5 2011 – Tentative) – (2011 Council Meeting Schedule)
- Oceanfront Rezoning (2011 Council Meeting Schedule)
- Gondola OCP Amendment (Nov 5 2011 – Tentative) – (2011 Council Meeting Schedule)
- Newport Ridge [Old Garibaldi Springs Golf Course] Rezoning (Nov 5 2011 – Tentative) – (2011 Council Meeting Schedule)
Now that you have read through all of those documents above (ok, maybe not yet), and made a note of all the important and upcoming meetings to attend, we can move on to the requirements (or expectation) for communication. Squamish is on the brink of a paradigm shift in the way we collaborate and engage as a community, as well as what we expect from our municipal leaders in the way of active and direct communication with the people they represent. 2011 is likely to be the first year in which Squamish mayoral and councillor seats will be determined by how well candidates utilize and actively engage with their community through tools like Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs. It is simply no longer possible for a municipal candidate or incumbent to ignore or dismiss the global phenomenon of social media and a more actively engaged and connected community. The phenomenal success and expanding membership in the newly created Squamish Speaks Facebook Group and Web Site have clearly demonstrated that the people of Squamish expect to collaborate and discuss important issues we all face as a community. A growing number of people in Squamish also expect the candidates, as well as the incumbents, to use these communication and social media tools to actively engage with their community. It doesn’t take much effort, or time, to begin using these tools and there is a great deal of help available on-line simply by searching with Google.
- Facebook (world’s most popular social media tool)
- LinkedIn (optional)
- Blog (WordPress, Blogger)
Once you have created yourself an account on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you should then consider the following;
- Join the Squamish Speaks Facebook Group
- Register on the Squamish Speaks Website and Contribute to the Forums
- Create a Facebook Page
- Follow the Squamish Speaks Twitter Feed
- Start writing an Election Blog
Sites & Resources
- District of Squamish
- Squamish Ocean Front Development
- Municipal Elections
- CivicInfo BC
- Squamish Speaks (Web)
- Squamish Speaks (Facebook)
If you have made it down to the bottom of this blog post, then I suppose it is time to come clean. Personally I have never been actively involved in politics, nor have I ever voted. Therefore I can assure you that I have not covered all the important points about running for office, and I am likely to have missed many important documents, policies or other useful material. If you notice something missing, or need to correct a mistake about a date, document or anything else, please use the contact page and drop me a line.
So why did I decide to get into politics after all these years of avoiding it like the plaque? Although I plan to write a more detailed explanation in the future, for now I will give the short version. Around 3 weeks ago I met one of the local candidates for Squamish Municipal Council and I was so impressed by this persons character, passion, innovativeness and apparent integrity that I made the decision to get involved with the local political scene. Starting with an endorsement of this candidate. Now it appears I have thrown myself into the field with both feet. I still have a great deal to learn about Squamish and the political system in general. I have witnessed a grass-roots initiative grow like wildfire and engage the community in online dialogue on many important issues facing Squamish. Therefore I believe these recent changes towards the use of online and social media, combined with a groundswell of increased support and engagement from the community, mark the start of a new future for Squamish. Hang on Squamish for what will likely be a wild, exciting and fabulous ride into the future. 🙂