An event Tuesday will kick off the Better Ballot Campaign, an effort asking voters and candidates in the upcoming municipal election to focus on the issues and not on making personal attacks.
The Better Ballot Campaign was born out of the Women’s Campaign School event held in February, said Teresa McKeeman, former president of the Guelph chapter of Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW).
CFUW became involved after the last municipal election, said McKeeman.
“We had heard so much from the female candidates about the kind of harassment they had experienced during the campaign. That led to us working with (city councillor) June Hofland on a Women’s Campaign School back in February,” said McKeeman.
“One of the things that came out of that campaign school was women saying that was a big deterrent to their running for office — the fear of harassment and personal attacks,” said McKeeman. “That spawned the idea of having a campaign to have people respond to that and reject this kind of political campaigning.”
The Better Ballot Campaign asks candidates and voters to pledge that they will reject all personal attacks during the campaign.
The hope is to make the election more about issues and ideas, said McKeeman, not candidates and supporters attacking each other.
“We hope this takes off. We hope that voters get involved, not just political candidates, because we think it’s up to voters to say it’s not okay,” she said.
The idea is not to stifle free speech, said McKeeman, but to raise the level of discourse by removing personal attacks.
“We can’t stop people, but we can say that it’s not cool,” she said.
McKeeman said the pledge will be to the benefit of all involved in the election campaign, not just women.
“We don’t want anyone to be harassed for stepping up and running for political office, because we know a good democracy needs good people to step forward, so we wanted to do something for everyone,” said McKeeman.
The Better Ballot Campaign is presented through a partnership between Guelph Chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women, the Zonta Club of Guelph, Pearl Street Communications, Karen Farbridge & Associates, Questiam Leadership Development, Innovation Guelph and Guelph Wellington Business Centre.
Three speakers lined up for Tuesday’s event will each represent a level of government — MP Michael Chong, MPP for Wellington - Halton Hills, Laura Mae Lindo, MPP for Kitchener Center and former Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge.
“They will be talking about their own experiences in politics and their thoughts about what is happening,” said McKeeman.
The event kicks off at 5 p.m. at Innovation Guelph.
Although the Better Ballot Campaign is targeting the municipal election first, McKeeman said she hopes the campaign will live on in future elections at all levels of government.
“We hope this takes off. We hope that voters get involved, not just political candidates, because we think it’s up to voters to say (personal attacks are) not okay,” said McKeeman.