FOULDS: Civic elections can bring seismic change

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Civic elections have sometimes had a tectonic impact on political history at higher levels of government, for better or worse, depending on your positioning on the political spectrum.

Decisions made at City Hall affect you far more than those made in Victoria or Ottawa, but municipal elections still attract about half the percentage of eligible voters than their provincial and federal counterparts.

There has been talk that this year’s municipal election will finally be the one in which Kamloops escapes its one-third voting rate and reaches perhaps 40%.

Municipal voter turnout in Kamloops this century has ranged from about 29% to 34%.

Will a strong mayoral race between five people (and three outgoing councilors) and at least five new councilors lead to an increase in turnout? Consensus question #1 – street-related issues, including crime, homelessness and a growing contingent of people with mental health and addictions issues – will spur an increase in the activity of ballot boxes?

If not, you can hardly blame the city of Kamloops, which has done a lot to make it easier for residents to vote – although one might wonder how much more does a voter need 12 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon?

Well, how about three days of early voting, each with a 12-hour window, in easy-to-reach locations on either side of the river, plus unprecedented mail-in voting options and polling stations. mobile polls visiting Thompson Rivers University, Royal Inland Hospital and a long list of nursing homes?

Voting has never been easier, but I would never have predicted record turnout, democracy behind yard work, golf, shopping, watching college football on TV and napping among the list weekend priorities for many.

That’s a real shame, given that civic elections have sometimes had a tectonic impact on political history at higher levels of government, for better or worse, depending on where you sit on the political spectrum.

Consider a young Michael de Jong, circa 1994. He was a lawyer in Matsqui (now Abbotsford) and was serving his second term on the school board when the local BC liberal machine picked him to run against the leading lady British Columbia politician, Grace McCarthy of the Social Credit Party, in the by-election that year.

The BC Liberals were rising, the venerable Socreds were falling – but many believed a McCarthy victory could turn the tide and restore relevance to the storied WAC party.

And, had McCarthy won that by-election, it’s quite possible that the political landscape in British Columbia would have looked dramatically different over the past three decades.

Alas, de Jong and his gang of Banzai! won a 42-vote victory, cementing a whole new era in provincial politics. He went from school commissioner to MP in one step and eventually served as Finance Minister, Health Minister, Labor Minister and Attorney General as he won eight consecutive election victories.

Or consider some interesting local civic election results that have had – and may have had – a butterfly effect on politics elsewhere.

In 2011, incumbent Mayor Peter Milobar was basically waiting to be cheered for his second term at Kamloops City Hall when a relatively unknown Dieter Dudy entered the race, if only to create some sort of race .

Two other candidates also entered the race, but conventional wisdom pushed Milobar back to victory. In the end, Dudy made Milobar sweat, coming within 236 votes of unseating the incumbent – ​​9,391 votes to 9,156 votes.

In the final days of this election, a third candidate, Brian Alexander, urged his supporters to vote for Dudy. Had they all heeded his advice, Alexander’s tally of 256 votes would have served as a huge surprise and given Kamloops a new mayor.

And, if Dudy had won this election, consider the seismic ramifications in the future.

Would Ken Christian have gone from an unbeatable school trustee and councilor candidate to a candidate for mayor? Would Milobar have secured the Liberal Party of British Columbia nomination in Kamloops-North Thompson in 2017 without the mayoral job freshly adorning his resume?

Take the last municipal election, in 2018. Sadie Hunter finished seventh among eight candidates elected to council for her first term at city hall.

Two years later, Hunter took time off from council to run in the 2020 provincial election for the BC NDP in Kamloops-North Thompson. His opponent in this battle? None other than Milobar, who would again endure an agonizing vote tally, eventually winning by a margin of victory – 192 votes – even tighter than his triumph over Dudy in 2011.

Had Hunter prevailed, a City Council by-election would have occurred. How would that result have affected next weekend’s election? With Hunter in Victoria, what would the field of mayoral candidates look like today?

The roles of city councilor and school trustee can officially be considered part-time jobs, although most elected officials quickly discover that these part-time jobs result in full-time hours.

Those elected to these seats are often at the bottom of the political spectrum in the minds of most voters – hence the disparity in voter turnout between municipal, provincial and federal elections.

But not only does the civic vote shape your daily life much more, but this ballot can, indirectly, have a significant impact on the growth of British Columbia in the years to come.

VOTING INFORMATION

The last day for advance voting is Wednesday, October 12 at Heritage House, downtown Riverside Park and McArthur Island on the North Shore. You can vote from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

General voting day is Saturday, October 15. Again, you can vote from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at any of the city’s 15 elementary schools. You can also vote at the Heritage House. All voting locations are listed online at kamloops.ca/vote.

To vote, you must be at least 18 years old, be a Canadian citizen, reside in British Columbia for at least six months prior to voting on October 15, and reside in Kamloops or own property in the city for at least six months prior to vote on October 15.

Remember to bring two pieces of ID to prove your identity and residency, and make sure one of the pieces of ID has your signature on it.

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Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

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