Will bloggers make a difference?

One supports James Crosty for mayor, the other Wayne Wright

On Thursday, two local bloggers released their endorsements of who they believe would make the best mayor, councillors and school trustees for New Westminster. The bigger question is what effect those endorsements will have on the Nov. 19 civic election.

Briana Tomkinson, along with husband Will and contributor Jen Arbo, are the driving forces behind the Tenth to the Fraser blog. The trio released their endorsements on Thursday morning.

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Daniel Fontaine is a 10-year resident of the Queen's Park area and best known as the former chief of staff to Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan. He, along with Mike Klassen, co-founded CityCaucus. com, a well-known civic affairs blog. Fontaine has been the editor-in-chief, while Klassen makes a run for the NPA for Vancouver city council.

City Caucus released its endorsements for the entire Lower Mainland on Thursday, and they differ markedly from Tenth to the Fraser's endorsements.

For mayor, Tomkinson's team is endorsing incumbent Wayne Wright while Fontaine is championing challenger James Crosty.

"Wayne Wright is the strongest choice," Briana Tomkinson writes. "He has a progressive vision for this city. - I think New Westminster has come a long way in the past decade, and I would like to see Wayne take another three years to finish what he started and then pass the torch to someone new."

Fontaine's endorsement of Crosty concentrates on the change Fontaine would to see across the entire region.

"Looking all across Metro Vancouver, there hasn't been a lot of renewal," said Fontaine. "We have to balance the experience of the region with fresh blood, and that's why I'm endorsing James Crosty for mayor. Wayne has had three terms, and I think it's time for a fresh perspective."

For council, Tenth to the Fraser is endorsing incumbents Jonathan Cote, Jaimie McEvoy, Betty McIntosh and Bill Harper, along with newcomers Chuck Puchmayr and David Noshad.

Fontaine's council endorsements are much different, as he is only endorsing two incumbents, Cote and McIntosh, while giving the thumbs up to all four Voice New Westminster newcomers: Noshad, Gavin Palmer, Susan Wandell and John Ashdown.

Tenth to the Fraser also gave honourable mentions to Ashdown and incumbent Lorrie Williams.

For school board, Tomkinson's team gave their endorsements to incumbent Michael Ewen and six newcomers: Jonina Campbell, MaryAnn Mortensen, David Phelan, James Pepa, Glen Richmond and Brenda McEachern-Keen.

Tomkinson's team also gave honourable mentions to incumbents Lisa Graham and Jim Goring.

Fontaine's school board endorsements also champion the idea of change, as he endorses all three Voice incumbents: Casey Cook, Goring and Graham, along with four newcomers: Voice's Mortensen and McEachern-Keen, along with teachers Phelan and Campbell.

For the Tenth to the Fraser crew, their endorsements aren't so much about politics but about offering up their considered opinions based on having a multitude of information pieces about each of the candidates.

"We don't believe that our opinions are 'special,' and we don't expect anyone to go out and vote for people just because we tell them to," said Tomkinson. "We don't want to tell you how to vote. We want to tell you why we are voting the way we do."

Tomkinson said getting people more information about the candidates was their first and fore-most goal, and not only does that include their endorsements but also the linking of various surveys and questionnaires on the Tenth to the Fraser blog that local groups distributed to candidates.

Fontaine agrees that getting more information out to voters is important, and the City Caucus blog is a great forum for people to get that information.

"From our research, we know that people do follow us very closely," he said. "I don't want to overinflate our importance, but we get lots of web traffic, and that shows people are interested in civic affairs."

Fontaine said he has no problem defending his endorsements, as he writes a weekly political affairs column, and his readers and followers expect him to take a stand.

"I think people want my opinion, and I think people are free to do what they want," he said. "I think people respect that I've done my research."

Fontaine makes no apologies for his political connections, but he argues that his endorsements go across the entire political spectrum, including his endorsements of Derek Corrigan for Burnaby mayor, Krista Engelland for Delta mayor, Suzanne Anton for Vancouver mayor and Dianne Watts for Surrey mayor.

"Renewal and change, that's something I believe in," he said.

Fontaine said he doesn't know what effect his endorsements will have on the civic election, but it may make a difference in a close race.

"Say you have a close race decided by 50 or 60 votes," said Fontaine. "Something like an endorsement can sometimes make the difference."

Fontaine added that social media can also make a difference, but that's something that can't be measured right now. He cites the example of one Vancouver candidate with more than 10,000 Twitter followers and another with only 300.

"Can that be translated into votes?" said Fontaine. "We won't know until after the election, but it will be interesting to see."

Tomkinson also doesn't know the quantifiable effects their endorsements will have.

"When we started this blog three years ago, I knew we had such a small following that endorsements would have been negligible," said Tomkinson. "But in the three years since, a lot of people have found us and now I think what we have to offer is helpful.

"Whatever you do on Nov. 19 and whichever way you swing politically, the most important thing is that you need to get out and vote. ... Vote for the ones you support. Do not feel obligated to vote for a full slate if there is not a full slate of candidates you support. Just get out there and do it, and tell everyone you know to do it, too."


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