COLUMN: Educate yourself on election issues

If you don’t know much about politics, your municipal government or your local school board, now is the time to learn.

If you don’t know much about politics, your municipal government or your local school board, now is the time to learn. With the elections coming November 15, we have less than two months to educative ourselves on who we wish to represent us in their governing decisions and financial expenditures.

With the new four year term for mayor and councillors, it amplifies the importance of getting the right person and the right group to work together as a team. As a new resident to the West Kootenay, I’ve got my homework cut out for me.

While students are finally back in the classrooms this week getting the education they need from their teachers, I too need information. I spent last fall covering the provincial election in the east Kootenay area where wild Bill Bennett won in a landslide over Norma Blisset.

I also heard statements from one person who believed it was the NDP government who put the HST in place and that’s why he would not vote for the NDP candidate. Sadly that voter had his information backwards when he cast his ballot.

In 2013 over 55 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot across the province; 45 per cent did not.

If you think the choice is obvious or if poll predictions that one party or person will win lulls you into a voters’ hibernation thinking in a cozy haze that you can count on the rest of the residents to make the “correct” decision for you, think again.

Everyone has issues that mean more to them than others. I suggest that now is the time to sit in the local meetings of council, RDCK and boards of education. Attend any candidate forums, read about their platforms and ask questions.

It might be confusing at first like the first time looking at a topographic map with various contour lines, but with time, navigation gets easier.

Local government has to work together for their constituents who pay their remuneration with their taxes. And every fall they go to the 2014 Union of BC Municipalities conference (UBCM), currently being held this week in Whistler, where they have an opportunity to meet with provincial politicians.

Who’s in the driver’s seat is important.

As a voter you can also help hold them accountable and reward your representative(s) with praise when it is due. They are there to represent you but it’s up to you to voice your priories to them.

October 10 is the deadline to submit nominations. However, several candidates have already announced their intentions to run and there have been a few articles already giving voters a chance to get acquainted with the newly nominated.

The last West Kootenay voter turn out is a sad reflection of people taking the democratic right to vote for granted. Whether it’s eligible voters laden with apathy or folks simply don’t like their choices, I’m not sure.  But if you’re 18 years or older, have lived in the community in which you are voting for 30 days and have been a resident of BC for six months, you can vote unless you have been found guilty of an election offence or are currently incarcerated.

Whether you’re running for office or voting, here are some statistics that I think demonstrate the importance of getting engaged in the elections now, so you know the candidates you will have to choose from.

In the 2011 local municipal elections in Nelson, 33.3 per cent of voters cast a ballot. Compare that to Greenwood which saw 69.8 per cent turn out; the election for mayor was won by a mere four votes, which supports the adage every vote counts.

On the regional front all areas in the RDCK combined had a 21 per cent turn out. The Village of Salmo had no election as all officials kept their seats by acclamation.

From what I gather, there could be some changes to that local government this fall, or not. It’s up to you, the voter.

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