So You’re Thinking of Running For Council

By John Swartz

Most people think being on a municipal council isn’t that hard, and for some it may not be, but for most it’s an entirely different world. Just understanding how the bureaucracy (as it’s come to be) works could be a two semester course at Georgian College, three if you want to understand how they write.

There is nothing more interesting than observing a captain of industry (i.e. management type) who gets elected and thinks they can just change things overnight just like they do at ACME Company, only to find out that’s not how government works – at any level.

Municipalities are a creation of the provincial government, so of course there are rules about how a council functions and the limits of power.

First you have to run and get elected.

There’s provincial campaign law, rules for running a campaign, that need to be understood. Breaking those can get you in some very hot water.

This is reality and should not really slow you down if you have a desire to step into the ring (thick skin is on sale at K-Mart all week). At the least you should go in with eyes wide open and prepare to learn and expand your impression of what being a councillor means.

One of the ways to find out is to attend the candidate information session the City of Orillia hosts on Thursday July 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. It’s being held in the Orillia Room at the Rotary Place. There are going to be representatives from the ministry of municipal affairs on hand and reps from the City and the townships of Oro-Medonte, Severn, Ramara and Springwater too.

They will cover things like eligibility to run for office, general campaign rules, election finances, and compliance audits, the rules of council and head of council (mayor), municipal staff, school board trustees, third party advertisers, proxies and scrutineers.

You need to register by calling 705-487-2171 ext. 2140 or email

The election is Oct 24 and the nomination period closes Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. A candidate’s guide is available online.

Many people try to do everything themselves, and it can be done, but it’s great to have help from people who support you – beyond the family. You’ll need to sort out what your pamphlet will contain and how it will look (get an opinion from someone who has a graphics background, seriously). Figure out your budget, those pamphlets (one for every voter in your ward) and lawn signs cost money (scope out strategic locations where one sign can do the work of many, and get to know the property owner) – get price quotes now, Another thing to get is a good pair of comfortable shoes (it will rain while you are out knocking on doors) and break them in now. If you need to raise money, get someone on your side who can do that for you, it’s much easier for them to ask than is for you to do that.

Familiarize yourself with current issues and find out what long term plans council already has in motion. The City’s website has a ton of information and you can start with news releases as a jumping off point.

You can have a leg up knowing what things the municipality can do something about (roads, parks, transit, libraries, etc.) and what things they can’t (provincial; healthcare, education – federal; crime, immigration, inflation, etc.)

Good luck.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)


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