Warning: Canadian political content
Most people in Toronto or Ontario now know about the battle between the Liberal Party of Ontario and the NDP for the riding (electoral district) of Parkdale High Park in Toronto. The contest degenerated into a vicious partisan gouge-fest, with attacks from Liberal web-loggers escalating to a fully fledged mud-slinging and dirty tricks campaign. It ended with the Liberals getting a bloody nose, losing by 2000 votes, or 8% of the turn-out.
So what do we learn from this? We can say that the Liberal web-loggers at fault thought they could get what they wanted with a quick tool through the sewer; well boys, now you've got clothes full of sewage and a face full of rat bites, and Cheri DiNovo still gets to go to Queen's Park.
But I see a further lesson in this: ugly elections like this happen for many reasons. Most of those reasons, such as the competitive nature of the political process and the immaturity of some participants we can do nothing about. However, it seems to me that we can change one thing: we can encourage members of different parties to work together on local civic projects. People would still exist who slime the "enemy" on principle, but they'd get far less support if the other members of their party expected to work on civic issues with all-party coalitions.
For this reason, I think we should avoid having party organisations endorse candidates for municipal office. Knowing you may have to work with a member of the "enemy" party in the next municipal election can have a healthy civilising effect.