Promises? Try Suggestions: THE VOTER


We need to stop referring to utterances made by politicians during a campaign as “promises.”

That is, unless the candidate also agrees in writing that, if they break or don’t fulfil a so-called “promise,” they will resign. A better word might be “suggestion” rather than “promise.”

They should be required to provide a clear explanation of what constitutes fulfilling a “promise.” You’ve probably seen those “Promises made = Promises kept” checklists produced as part of subsequent campaigns that, in many cases, resemble works of fiction more than fact. Often the politician’s idea of delivering on a promise bears no resemblance to what the rest of us understood or were expecting.

Sutcliffe Broke A Campaign Promise: READER

They would have to also provide a timetable for fulfilling each “promise” and each of its components. A twice-yearly update on each of their “promises” would be mandatory with an explanation given for unmet commitments. I once heard a politician say that it hadn’t been possible to deliver on a particular “promise” yet but it was on the radar for next term. The message was clearly that if you wanted that particular thing done, you needed to re-elect him. You will note that he didn’t actually say he was working on it or even that it was on ‘his’ radar, just ‘the radar’.

Perhaps Billy Joel said it best – he could have been referring to politicians when he wrote “”Honesty” is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard and mostly what I need from you.”

The Voter is a respected community activist and long-time Bulldog commenter who prefers to keep her identity private.



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3 Responses

  1. I would much prefer that they set goals or objectives for their mandate, and when elected, with yearly action plans detailing how they will work towards achieving their goals, and regular updates of the progress achieved. This is good for corporate organizations and could be used as an approach by elected officials

  2. The Voter says:


    Some councillors will tell you that the ‘Term of Council Priorities’ are their “plan” for the four years. They are, of course, no such thing. In addition, they are not developed by Council at all but by staff, usually before Council is even elected so they bear no resemblance to the priorities that individual council members, including the mayor, ran on.

    In most organizations, such a roadmap is created through a strategic planning session with goals and objectives being set out. There is no reason why Council couldn’t sit down together for a few days just after they’re sworn in with each of them bringing their ‘want’ list to the table and hashing out a plan for the length of their mandate. Aside from anything else, such an exercise would allow councillors to understand their colleagues’ priorities. (There’s nothing stopping any councillor whose ideas don’t make the list from working on them and presenting motions or reports throughout the council term.) Once Council establishes its goals and objectives, they can send staff away to flesh them out with action plans which would then come back to Council for approval. That sets into motion an ongoing review process that measures progress or lack thereof and adapts the overall plan as needed.

    Council’s current work is set and controlled almost exclusively by staff so the cart is leading the horse. This is unlikely to change as long as, for example, the mayor continues following the lead of staff and, indeed, asking them how he should vote on matters before Council. He generally votes in favour of staff reports and, if an amendment is proposed, asks if they’re in agreement with it before he will vote for it.

    Newsflash, Mr. Mayor: Council’s job is to “consider” staff reports and decide if they want to adopt them in whole or in part. Staff has already had their kick at the can when they drafted it and when they provide comment on it at Council. Then it’s up to councillors to determine if they want to accept the report, amend it or reject it. The result is then turned back over to staff for implementation of Council’s decision.

    As long as staff is in the driver’s seat, you’ll never see Council setting out their own goals and objectives which will continue to be to the detriment of good governance.

  3. Ken Gray says:


    You’re right.

    Council became so lazy that it didn’t even become pro-active on $2.2 billion of light rail. They just said it was easier for staff and the mayor to handle it. No leadership. Look what happened. A mess.

    Council did so little that staff lost respect for its members. Look what they did at Jock River. If you respected an organization, you wouldn’t pull that stunt. And a good knowledge of right and wrong would come in handy. Do what’s right, not what’s wrong. Wrong gets you into a lot of trouble.

    Sutcliffe needs to lead. He needs to bring the people with him. Not hide the ebuses or the height limits from the voters. Embrace participation. Listen. And don’t get dragged along by staff. They have their own agenda. It has little to do with democracy. Grow up. Be a big boy not the toy of interests inside and outside city hall.

    You’re the leader, not staff, not developers, not interest groups.

    Lead the people. That’s your job. And if you’re good at it, the people and your conscience will take you to the right place.

    Above all, listen. Most people don’t. I’m an offender like most people. People who listen do well.



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