Are you ready to cast your vote?

This is an election year. In November a municipal election will be held. Although not officially scheduled until May of 2013 we may also have a provincial election this year and on May 2 we vote federally.

Are you ready? Will you vote in any or all of these elections?  

According to Elections Canada voter turnout has declined since confederation when 73 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot.  Compare this with 58.8 per cent in 2008. Provincially, we fair even worse with only 50 per cent of eligible voters bothering to make their mark in 2009, eight percentage points less than in 2005.Municipally, I’m sad to say we faired even worse with a 43.7 per cent voter turnout for the District of Sooke and 41 per cent in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area! It all looks pretty bad except when you compare those with the provincial average for municipal/regional voters at 25 per cent, and compare with Saanich’s paltry 21 per cent turn out (www.civicinfo.bc.ca). This means is that roughly half of the people at any gathering don’t bother to vote.  

For those who do vote I ask: how you vote? Do you generally choose a candidate from an overall impression? Do you attend all candidates meetings? Do you vote mainly based on name recognition? Or do you have a question you ask each candidate in turn?  In other words, are you a proactive or a passive voter? All of these techniques, including closing one’s eyes and taking a stab at the ballot, deliberately spoiling a ballot, and voting for the party least likely to succeed in protest of the big two, are utilized by some voters! Do you vote for the man, woman or party?

Why is it that we believe voting federally is so much more important than voting locally?  Or rather, why do we feel local government is so unimportant? It saddens me to look at voter turnout statistics and see that across the country we voters truly are the most apathetic at the municipal level, when in fact; this is the level of government that most affects our daily lives. It is also the level of government we have the most potential to exert some influence over. These are the people who set our home-owner taxes, make zoning decisions, approve subdivisions, build sidewalks and infrastructure, as well as take care of social necessities: paying the police, inspiring doctors to move here, and advocating to higher levels of government for schools, social services and infrastructure grants. Believe it or not, they do want to hear from us, in a respectful and constructive manner mind. These are our neighbours and friends who brave the deep and treacherous waters in the hopes of making a positive change!  

I appeal to you to challenge the statistics and while you are at it, challenge your friends and family, to get out and vote. Vote with your hearts as much as your head.  If each of us managed to persuade one more person to vote, and even better, vote thoughtfully, the results would be felt almost immediately. A friend recently said, ‘If better is possible, is good, good enough?”

I know we are all busy and our time is limited.  There’s only so much each of us can manage in a day. Here are three possibilities to help you make an informed vote:

All candidates meetings require the least time commitment and provides a good synopsis of the candidates.  Do they listen openly and answer honestly?  Do they sidestep the question or make a stand? Are they able to express themselves clearly? You can learn much from how people respond whether or not you agree with their view on that particular topic.

Another option is to decide on a question focusing on something that is important to you. It could be on the environment, side walks, sewers, even vehicular access to the back country. The point is to put the same question to each candidate and see how, and if, they respond. With email and blogs this is now faster and easier.

If you can’t do either of these try to read all three of our local news sources; the Sooke News Mirror, Rural Observer and Sooke Voice News.  They will all be covering some aspect, and from differing perspectives, of the District of Sooke and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area elections.

I hope I have given you enough information to inspire you to go and find out what else is going on in your community. Please get more involved in this election year if no other time.  This is your community!  

And women, this year will be the 71st anniversary since all women gained the right to vote in Canada.  Hard to imagine, isn’t it?  You all have the right, please accept the responsibility.

– Marlene Barry, Special to the Sooke News Mirror