Fort Frances Coun. Wendy Brunetta, who helped organize the “Women in Politics” symposium last Wednesday evening at Confederation College here, gave tips on planning an election campaign.
“The main reason I decided to arrange this session is because of one of the barriers I found when I was running, and that was a lack of information,” she noted.
Coun. Brunetta, who first was elected in 2014, said she decided to run for several reasons, including timing (she was near retirement), having expertise to offer (a human resources background), the need for diversity (the existing council consisted solely of men), and the imminent closure of the mill was imminent (economic development seemed to be at a standstill and something had to be done).
“I started to talk to a few friends about it and said, 'What do you think?' and they said, 'Yeah, yeah, do it!'” she recalled.
“So when the time came, I put my name forward.”
After making that decision, she filed her intention to run with town clerk Lisa Slomke.
For the upcoming municipal election, which is slated for Oct. 22, nomination papers must be submitted between May 1 and up until 2 p.m. on July 27.
“So there's a lot of time, and as Rebecca [Johnson] said, the sooner you file, the sooner you have to start campaigning, really, so take your time,” Coun. Brunetta said.
“You don't have to decide May 1, you can decide later on,” she stressed.
It costs $100 to run for council and $200 to run for mayor (you can't run for both).
The fee is reimbursed if you withdraw, if you're elected, or if you receive more than two percent of the votes but are not necessarily elected.
After filing your intention to vote, you also have to set up a separate bank account for your election expenses.
Coun. Brunetta gave herself a campaign budget of $500 of her own money, but candidates can accept donations as long as they fall within certain guidelines and limits.
Any money that you use has to come out of that account.
When it comes to campaigning, there's many options to choose from—ranging from signs of different sizes, colours, and with or without photos to brochures, advertising, websites, and social media.
Sometimes there's a candidates' debate but the last municipal election here had more of a candidates' forum, where each of the 16 candidates got to speak for several minutes about their platform.
“My platform was not about what I thought should change," Coun. Brunetta said. ”It was about what I could offer to the community.
"I didn't have any major beefs with the council that was there before me except that there were no women.
“I did campaign on the platform of diversity and [to] have representation from all walks of life,” she added.
Coun. Brunetta also credited the Fort Frances Times for providing space in its pages for candidates to write up whatever they want to say about themselves and what they felt was important, so that the public could make informed decisions about who they were voting for.
She didn't have a campaign team, other than her husband putting out signs, but an election tends to generate excitement and you really get a lot of people saying, 'If you need help, let me know,'" Coun. Brunetta added.
She also advised candidates to “be visible.”
“It's not even so much campaigning, it's really just being in the community, people knowing you, recognition,” she explained.
"Going to the Chamber of Commerce's 'Oktoberfest' just so people see you and say, 'Oh yeah, she's running for council.'
“I also went to the farmers' market the Saturday before the election and handed out brochures, saying, 'Please don't forget to vote,'” Coun. Brunetta added.
On election day, candidates in municipal elections can get out and campaign. They even can visit voting sites as long they don't try to influence voters before they fill out their ballot or ask them how they voted afterward.
If elected, you have to take down your election signs, close down campaign websites or Facebook pages, and file campaign expenses.
And then the real challenge begins.
“I found my first year difficult," admitted Coun. Brunetta, noting it was "a lot of work to do both” her day job and be a councillor—and unlike some other women in politics, her kids already are full-grown.
“You do need the support of your family, where it's a spouse or your children—everyone really needs to be prepared for this,” she stressed.
She also advised those elected to not take things personally, adding “Cheers and Jeers" in the newspaper can be "killer sometimes" but you just have to say, "I can't take it personally. Not everyone's going to agree with me.'”
“Every decision you make is not going to be popular with 100 percent of the people," Coun. Brunetta said. "And it's usually the minority that are the complainers.”
She also urged new councillors to make sure they have enough information before voting on an item at the council table, and if they don't have enough, be sure to speak up and ask.
“Your vote is powerful even though you're one of seven people," Coun. Brunetta noted. ”Your vote is powerful—it could mean the difference between something getting passed and not getting passed.
“You really need to vote to the best of your ability.”
She also stressed members of council must not be swayed by popular opinion or special interest groups; they must keep an open mind but, at the same time, they need to be true to what they believe.
“Remember that you represent the community but you can't make everyone happy,” Coun. Brunetta reiterated.
“Try to do what's best for the community as a whole, even though you know, 'This is really going to affect a friend of mine,'” she said.
"You just have to vote that way.
“And remember, you won't get your way every time," she stressed. "You might to be on a popular side of a vote sometimes—just keep trying.”
For more information on running in a municipal election, visit www.amo.on.ca/AMO-Content/Municipal-101/Municipal-Elections.aspx