By all accounts, it looks like next month’s municipal elections will be one of the most hotly contested campaign in various jurisdictions for many years.
In almost all the municipalities in the area, there are quite a number of candidates running for positions of mayoralty, village, town or county councilor, a situation also reflected in the races for trusteeships at the boards of the school divisions across the region.
This is a situation which deserves some reflection.
When the last federal elections were held in Canada in the fall of of 2008, voter turnout in Alberta and in our area was registered as one of the lowest, if not the lowest, rates of election participation.
Judging from the higher number of candidates, it should not be too far-fetched to conclude that the voter turnout, too, is likely to be higher in the municipal elections on Oct. 18.
Speculating on possible reasons for the transformation of the attitude towards elections from apathy to interest, one can think of several factors: that these are municipal and not federal elections, and therefore, will have a more immediate/direct impact on our lives; that these elections come after an extended period of hardships for people in all sectors of the economy due to the global downturn; and that more people believe that they can do more and better for the good of the community at a time when they see good leadership is sought at all levels.
It is true that municipalities are the most important platforms for the exercise of representative democracy since that is the level where the electorate can most directly have their voice heard and their grievances recognized and addressed.
Unlike in the elections for federal and provincial legislative bodies, where the bonding between the politicians and the electorate collapses as soon as the voting has taken place; in municipalities, local politicians remain in close contact with those who vote for or against them and have to continue to carry the responsibility for their promises made during the election campaign.
That many more candidates are volunteering in this election campaign to take on and carry forward with these responsibilities is something that the electorate can only be happy about; not only because competition is good in itself, but also because that competition should, at least in theory, bring out the best in what the candidates have to offer.
In the course of the next three weeks, through open houses and candidate forums, voters will have a lot of opportunity to make up their minds on who to vote for and why.
Then it will be the responsibility of the voters to select and support the candidate that they believe will serve best in the interests of the community.
But those who fail to vote will not have the right to complain if things do not go the way they wish.
— Mustafa Eric