Welcome to silly season.
With the turn of the calendar from September to October, and given that it’s been three years since the last civic election, it’s time for those who want to get elected to municipal councils, school boards and regional district boards across B.C. to step forward. And in Kelowna, traditionally, that means offering voters plenty to choose from.
Three years ago, in addition to the first bona fide mayor’s race in recent years, more than 40 candidates put their names forward to try and win one of the eight spots as a city councillor.
This time, with municipal, regional district and school board terms now at four years, the turnout of those wanting to be the ones making local government decisions for the next four years is expected to be no different.
But while the large number of candidates—some serious contenders, some not so serious—is the price we pay for democracy, it can be a little overwhelming for voters.
All-candidate’s meetings can be, in a word, useless. With so many people running, giving all of them equal opportunity to answer the same questions in front of a pubic audience can take a long time. That means fewer questions or splitting the candidates up into groups to answer different questions.
Elections should be about getting information into the voters hands so they can make educated decisions about who to vote for. But it also requires voters to do some work themselves. If they have issues they are interested in, it’s critical they find out where the candidates stand on those issues.
But, as is the case with every civic election, voters often sit this one out.
In recent years, Kelowna has done all it could to have ballot boxes located where it anticipates people will be on election day, such as in shopping malls and recreation centres. And there are opportunities to vote in advance as well. All this has helped but overall the turnout for civic elections remains, at best, OK, at worst, abysmal.
Local government is the level of government closest to the public. It fixes pot holes on your street, makes sure the garbage is collected and the toilets in your home flush and it allows development to occur in your neighbourhood—or not.
So, as we enter into he next few weeks when candidates must files papers if they want to run in the Nov. 15 election, pay attention to what the candidates are saying. Get involved and not only have your say, make an informed choice at the ballot box.
Complaining after the fact if you couldn’t be bothered to vote in the first place will only get you what you deserve—municipal council, regional district or school board made up of people who don’t represent your views. And that hurts everybody.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Kelowna Capital News.