Sooke residents will head to the polls at the end of September for a civic byelection.
Unfortunately, if recent civic election trends hold true, only about one-in-three voters will show up to cast a ballot.
Sadly, the number of voters making their way to the polls may be further depressed by the fact a federal election campaign will be raging across the land by that time, doing its best to suck up all the political oxygen in the country.
But as much as highly funded federal party politics may make for better theatre, it’s important to note the results of Sooke’s little byelection will likely have a greater impact on the residents in the district than anything that happens in Ottawa.
This isn’t a new message, of course.
For years people have been urged to vote in civic elections, with the cheerleaders of the cause citing the same fundamental truths.
Roads, development, recreation, water, sanitation, policing, and a plethora of other day-to-day items, they say, will all be decided at the municipal hall. Property taxes are set there, too. Get out and vote if you want to chart the future of your community, they say.
Sounds reasonable, but it’s unlikely to change voter turnout.
One problem is the civic election finance regulations facing local candidates. They can’t spend the kind of money doled out by their provincial and federal counterparts for ads and other messaging. Civic candidates struggle to get their message across on a shoestring budget, leaving the electorate confused about what, if any, differences exist between those running for office.
Another challenge is that civic elections are not fought on party lines. There are no long-standing ideological platforms being presented and no sense of loyalty to a party that might drive voter turnout.
No, civic elections are hard work for voters. They have to take the time to learn about the candidates and decide which of those people best represent their own vision of the community’s future.
Incidentally, that requirement also calls for a little introspection by voters who must determine what they find important at a local level.
It’s a lot easier staying home.
But that choice is not without consequences as a bad councillor can cause chaos in a community.
So we’ll join the cheerleaders to encourage everyone to vote. Let’s hope most do.