BY CATE BARRATT
The News Bulletin is presenting a series of guest columns co-ordinated by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and the Our Nanaimo voter engagement group.
The internet abounds in information on why you should vote: others fought for the democracy you enjoy; it’s your duty; etc. etc. But for me, the reason to vote is more personal than that. I have little say in how much I pay in municipal taxes but, by voting, I hope to have a say about what is done with it by matching my wishes with candidates’ platforms and promises.
Nanaimo is called the Hub City, which is supposed to mean it’s the focal point for activity. Yet, in recent years, it seems to have served just as a jumping off point for business to get the heck out of town and set up somewhere else. Business investment in this city has been on hold for too long. Just look at the preponderance of derelict buildings downtown. Any guesses why that is the case? Because business goes where it is welcome, where possibility abounds, where cities are well and effectively managed, where they welcome investment, make it easy to thrive. That’s not happening in Nanaimo.
But with the right management, it could be. If we vote for a competent and collaborative city council and mayor, this Hub City will thrive with business and business opportunities. That equals jobs. That equals jobs that pay well because business will compete with itself to hire you over their competitor. At the end of the day, economics are pretty simple, and so are the reasons you should vote.
Canadians have a dismal reputation for showing up at the polls on election day. The numbers start at a disappointing 60 per cent for federal elections and have been known to plummet as low as 20 per cent at municipal voting time, depending on where you live. Yet of the three principal levels of government we have in Canada, there is none that directly affects our lives like our local (or municipal) government. The quality of the water we drink, our sewage system, the frequency and scope of garbage collection (the kind of recycling programs we adopt), how we get around town (whether it be the condition of our roads or the quality of our public transit system), access to public library resources, ambulance and fire services, parks and recreation, arts and culture, how public land is developed, and indeed how vibrant our economy is are all managed by a group of individuals we elect every four years.
The same principle applies to the election of school board trustees. The incumbents in these positions have surprising autonomy in their decision-making, yet are often voted in with pathetic numbers. Nanaimo’s school trustees are responsible for an operating budget that is only a fraction smaller than that of city council.
Everyone gets a vote. Every individual who gives up his vote, effectively gives it to his neighbour. And, let’s face it, we all have at least one neighbour with whom we don’t see eye to eye. If you don’t want to see another city council like the one we have suffered under for the past four years, then don’t give up your vote to your neighbour. On Oct. 20, please vote – and please vote smart.
OPINION: Look beyond candidates’ catchphrases