Fifteen years ago, around this time of year, I made a rare appearance in the Pique offices and asked Bob Barnett what Pique was going to do about the election.
"Sell some ads... I hope," was, as I recall, his answer. Hard as it may be to imagine it now, Pique in those days was as close as you could come to being a non-profit operation and still be considered an operation at all.
"That's not what I meant," I said. "What I mean is, are we going to endorse candidates in the election?"
Bob wasn't sure and didn't seem comfortable with the idea. I spent the next 45 minutes haranguing him about how I thought it was a newspaper's duty to endorse candidates running for election and if we didn't, we weren't doing our job. Haranguing Bob has always felt a bit like whipping a puppy to me so I left his desk feeling sorry I'd brought the question up and reminding myself I lived in Canada now and needed to stop being so pushy.
But the political junkie in me believed I was right then and, as much grief as it's earned me over the years; I still believe I was right. This is probably a good time to say mine is a minority opinion. While Pique is okay with me, as an independent columnist, endorsing candidates, it is the paper's editorial position to make no endorsements.
It's not a stance with which I agree... still. Why? Because there are still a discouraging number of uninformed voters who will, notwithstanding their unwillingness to spend the time finding out about the candidates for themselves, cast a ballot. I don't believe it is everyone's duty to vote in an election. Frankly, I'd prefer uninformed people not vote. I do believe it is everyone's duty who is going to vote to put in the effort to figure out which candidate(s) best reflect their values and beliefs and then vote accordingly.
Is that elitist? Maybe. Too bad? Blind voting doesn't further the cause of representative democracy. It reduces it to the old sexist joke about choosing the candidate with the largest breasts or the one who has the nicest eyes. You don't do anyone any favours by casting an ignorant ballot and far from doing your duty, you abdicate and mock that duty.
Endorsements help bridge that gap though. Columnists and editorial staff do not generally make endorsements lightly. They take the time to interview candidates, look into their backgrounds and, in the case of incumbents, voting records. They ask tough questions and listen to answers and observe the multitude nuances of non-verbal communication that goes on unconsciously while a person speaks. They do not endorse people because they're friends with them. In fact, they generally stay as far away from that as possible.