Whether or not they inspire praise or profanity, provincial and federal political parties tend to evoke decisive feelings in Richmond voters.
However, many of those same citizens are at a loss for words when asked about the three local slates jostling for ballot supremacy in the municipal election scheduled for Nov. 19.
Part of the confusion is due to the fact a slate is not the same thing as a political party although it can be.
According to Wikipedia: A slate is a group of candidates that run in multi-seat or multi-position elections on a common platform.
The common platform may be because the candidates are all members of a political party, have the same or similar policies, or some other reason.
In Richmond, the Richmond Citizens Association (RCA) and the Richmond First Voters Society each have unified policies and a cohesive political platform.
RCA is rooted in the NDP, and tends to take a strong pro-agriculture, pro-affordable housing stance. Richmond First positions itself on the right, standing for low taxes and taking a more pro-business stance.
The Richmond Independent Team of Electors is unique in that it is less united by policy and more by principles. In fact, part of what defines RITE, according to council candidate Carol Day, is a reluctance to enforce a party line.
Richmond First member Coun. Ken Johnston, standing for re-election, said: Our position is basically pro-business.
However, Johnston notes that, while he is in favour of competitive property taxes for companies, he is mindful that businesses tend to be drawn to a cohesive, vibrant community.
Its about the whole package in terms of quality of life, thats what attracts business, Johnston said.
The primary political challenge for stewarding Richmond into the future is balancing controlled growth with good financial management, according to Johnston.
Richmond First candidates include Johnston, Derek Dang, Bill McNulty and Linda McPhail.
RITEs Carol Day, a school trustee running for council, described her slate as a progressive alternative standing for increased transparency in government.
Party founder Sandra Bourque was initially a member of the New Democratic Party, but broke off affiliation after growing disillusioned with the leadership of the party. Bourque and Sue Halsey-Brandt eventually formed RITE as a party solely dedicated to school trustee candidates.
We do not vote as a block, Day said. Ive seen too much block-voting by Richmond First.
Day referred to RITEs four council candidates, including incumbent Sue Halsey-Brandt and school trustee Chak Kwong Au, and newcomer Michael Wolfe as freethinkers.
RITE is also defined by their stance on campaign contributions, according to Day, pointing to the significant disparity in campaign contributions in the 2008 election.
In that election, Richmond First received $156,102 in campaign contributions, including $20,000 from the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and $12,500 from Progressive Construction Ltd.
RITE received an eighth of that, $18,086, of which $5,000 was donated by the candidates themselves.
RCA received $10,535, of which $5,000 was from the Hospital Employees Union.
The RCA evolved from the provincial New Democratic Party, but only retains a loose affiliation with the party today, according to Coun. Linda Barnes.
The RCA is defined by a commitment to environmental issues, food security and affordable housing.
I spearheaded legalizing secondary suites in Richmond, Barnes said. We need to continue to recruit partners for affordable housing.
While Barnes and Day agree community support should precede the construction of granny flats and coach homes, Barnes said a move to affordable housing is inevitable.
Change is going to happen, she said, adding that councils job is to make sure the transition to increased density is a smooth one.
RCA is fielding three council candidates in the 2011 election, including De Whalen and longtime incumbent Harold Steves.
Along with slate candidates, several independents have registered to run in the November election.