MANY Colchester councillors will claim to be independent-minded - but Jason Leonard certainly stands out from the crowd.

The 37-year-old Canadian, who moved to the town five years ago, is hoping to topple the Lib Dem dominance in Mile End next month.

He is putting forward some different ideas.

Instead of pledging to clean up the town or lighting up public spaces, he wants to give each and every one of residents in the ward a say in how he would vote in the council chamber.

To do that, he would use open source e-democracy technology.

The independent candidate says that would allow him to explain to voters the ins and outs of an issue and ask them for their opinion.

Akin to Facebook, that could be as simple as hitting a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Job done.

But he knows, as simple as the technology sounds, it wouldn’t be that easy.

He said: “We are at a stage now where people feel disenfranchised, they feel their voice does not matter.

“If you look at the research, the people who are engaging are young people from wealthy backgrounds because they see the system is working for their family.

“What’s happening with everyone else is that they are protesting more and engaging less.

“That’s because the don’t feel like they have a voice.”

The chartered accountant added: “If you are angry enough to protest and you’re seeing nothing happen, that leads you to completely disengage.”

Mr Leonard initially pondered standing on the same ticket in the Parliamentary elections but ultimately opted against “almost certainly” losing his £500 deposit.

Entry into the running in borough council elections is much less financially taxing, though.

He added: “I wasn’t naive enough to think I could get the 2 per cent to 3 per cent of the vote needed to get my deposit back, so I decided not to waste the £500.

“But this time I decided ‘What the heck?’

“And even if I don’t win, and I know that is a big ask, I am more than happy to set this up for any of the parties. I feel that strongly about it.” He has aligned himself with popular independent John Akker, who is standing in the Mersea and Pyefleet ward, having pushed Tory stalwart John Jowers close in last year’s Essex County Council elections.

Mr Leonard said: “I feel, and have felt for some time, our politics in Colchester has become way too tribal, with people voting on party lines for what might not be the right reasons.

“With Liquid (direct) democracy, that would change.

“If I ask all my residents what their opinion is, then my own view matters very little.”

Mr Leonard, who lived in Cork, Ireland, before arriving in north Essex, where his wife took up a role as a GP, accepted it could be difficult to get people on board.

He said: “At the moment, if you live in a nice house and have a nice job and you know your rent or mortgage is going to be paid on time, you will have more time to ponder the issues.

“If that is not the case, voting or understanding the issues is probably down the list.

“And by and large, people don’t have the time.

“But people do spend a lot of time on the likes of Facebook, possibly actually reading political articles.

“This is all that would be needed really. Read something and tell me if you support it or not.” In a bid to show the impact of people knowing which way a representative has voted or acted, the proud Canadian pointed to his own upbringing in the north of the country.

He said: “It was a town of about 1,000 people and everyone knew everyone and looked out for everyone and that sense of social and more responsibility and civic duty kept representatives in check.

“If they did something which wasn’t right or were lining their pockets, they couldn’t go to the supermarket because there would be a social response to what they’ve done.

“I would say the same would exist here with liquid democracy. If you didn’t vote the way people have asked, they would know about it.”

n Mr Leonard is standing against Pauline Bacon (Lab), David King (Lib Dem), Amanda Kirke (Green) and Thomas Rowe (Con).