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Opinion: Dave Dale, Rolling the ballot box dice

If you are clearly behind six candidates, giving support to another four might help one or more of them upend your top choices – but hedging your bet can pay dividends too.
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Fair weather won't last long for the North Bay Farmers Market and it's still looking for a winter home. Will one of the municipal election candidates help find a solution?

With the advance polls for the municipal election a mere three weeks hence, the topic of voting strategy rises to the forefront.

If there are 10 seats and 29 candidates, such as in North Bay, should you put an X beside your favoured 10?

Is there a strategic benefit of limiting how many you choose? Stop at four? Stop at six? Or is eight better?

What happens when you pick all 10 compared to just a portion of the ballot? It’s a shame if new candidates with little hope don’t get enough voting encouragement to continue their efforts.

There are arguments for each option with pros and cons to consider.

Some limit their choices so they don’t water-down their top preferences with what can be “partial support” gestures. If you are clearly behind six candidates, giving support to another four might help one or more of them upend your top choices.

Then again, your preferred candidates might not make it anyway and it could prove advantageous to give a Plan B candidate support – they might be in a dog-fight against someone you would much rather see defeated.

It’s not uncommon for the last four choices to be decided on the thinnest of rationale – gifts for the friends of friends you don’t quite know – or perhaps an “identity politics” decision supporting whatever group the candidate represents.

I believe this path offers more hazards than opportunity. I wouldn’t vote for someone based on their sex or identity because there are poor candidate choices representing all kinds as well as good ones. Character and experience are better guides. I would more likely consider, however, choosing from a mix of youth and experience – but then again, it depends on their character.

You might want change and decide to vote for only those who are not seeking re-election. You might prefer status quo and only vote for returning candidates. Some people choose a mix of the two.

Naturally, if you have a strong opinion about who you’ll support for mayor – or at least believe one is most likely going to win if you support them or not – this can be a factor in which council candidates are ideal. You might want to support only those who are of a “like mind” or part of a slate to assist the next mayor in implementing their campaign planks or vision. At the same time, you may want to limit your support to only those who will provide a healthy measure of opposition to balance the equation.

Running for North Bay mayor are two politicians with experience, former deputy mayor Peter Chirico and Johanne Brousseau, chairperson of community services last term, and a first-timer Leslie McVeety. Chirico is widely considered a front-runner with Brousseau not that far behind and McVeety a distant third at this point (wholly unofficial assessment based on discussions with long-time observers and my own instincts).

Sport North Bay surveyed the candidates about the Community Centre planned for the Steve Omischl Sports Field Complex and it appears this will be one of the wedge issues – with costs, location and priority part of the puzzle.

The next council will be voting on the decision after construction tenders are reviewed to nail down the total price tag, minus the nearly $26-million in federal grant available.

Brousseau is leaning toward approval while Chirico has stated he doesn’t support the project in its “current form” without yet offering an alternative plan. I’d like to know more details on what might happen if the Omischl-site designs are scrapped. The issue might be how some voters decide on which council candidates to support.

It would be beneficial for some candidates to show their ability to solve community problems in a practical way during the campaign, in addition to the important work of making lofty promises.

As one example, I challenge all those who are running for office to help the North Bay Farmers Market find an affordable new venue for this winter’s indoor markets each Saturday. With the North Bay Mall, the market’s off-season home for seven years, under renovation they have been forced to look at alternatives. Options are limited and quotes so far more than double the previous rent of just under $1,000 per Saturday.

They need between 8,000 and 10,000 square feet for about 40 vendors (a bit more than half the summer total of 70 or so). While some storage between Saturdays would be a plus (saves on set up and tear down), they are prepared to keep it to one day only access per week from mid-October through April.

Many would agree the North Bay Farmers Market is a viable asset benefitting area residents and a point of interest for visitors. It would be a good thing to assist its continuity through the year as they adapt to the venue challenge at the same time economic factors make it more difficult and more vital for area farmers and consumers of locally grown produce (as well local product entrepreneurs).

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses meant as Letters to the Editor can be sent to editor@baytoday.ca. To contact the writer directly, email: davedale@backinthebay.ca or check out his website www.smalltowntimes.ca