This video is part of this story in the Nelson Star
Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak will issue a challenge to other Kootenay municipalities this week. The Kootenay Community Voter Challenge is a friendly contest to see which municipality can most increase the percentage of its voter turnout in the next federal election over 2011.
Nelson resident Mike Chapman came up with the idea and Kiara Lynch presented it to council on Monday. Council enthusiastically endorsed it and the mayor agreed to take it on.
Lynch and Chapman are part of a non-partisan group who will run the contest. She assured council participation will not cost them any money.
Lynch began her presentation with a quote from comedian and broadcaster Rick Mercer:
“You get young people voting, next thing you know you’ll have an entire generation of informed citizens running around, taking part in democracy and feeling a real sense of ownership in Canada.”
Lynch proposed that council challenge all members of the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments, which Kozak chairs.
“This can be done in the spirit of community building,” she said, “and is a creative way to catch the communities’ imagination and attention. Inventive prizes can be decided upon for the winning community. This is a serious endeavour, but it needn’t be solemn.”
She jokingly suggested first prize should be a Senate seat. She said perhaps the mayor of the winning town could get a “golden ticket” for free activities in participating communities. And she said they have contacted Mercer, asking him to come and record a rant or otherwise appear in the winning community, but have not heard back yet.
Accompanying Lynch to the council meeting, to prove that the initiative is non-partisan, were four local citizens, each a supporter of one of the main parties: Corky Evans, Jan Wright, Lorne Westnedge and Nicole Charlwood.
“I love it,” councillor Anna Purcell said. “I love that it is not partisan. It sounds like a really fun, playful way to work regionally and collaboratively.”
Kozak said: “I thought it was brilliant right away. Anything we can do to increase participation in democracy, and if we can make it fun at the same time, this is a great idea.”
Councillor Valerie Warmington said she appreciates the “serious but not solemn” approach.
Lynch presented statistics on the percentages of eligible voters in Canada who did not vote in the 2011 federal election. The 18 to 24-year-old group had the highest number of non-voters at 61 per cent, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds at 55 per cent. Most engaged was the 65 to 74 group, with 25 per cent non-voters.
She said in the 2011 federal election, Nelson’s voter turnout was 62 per cent, lower than the average of 66 per cent for the BC Southern Interior riding.
“We see this federal election as a golden opportunity,” Lynch said. “We see it as a perfect time to engage young people and to discuss civic engagement in general, because clearly our federal politics affects our cities, towns, and regions.
Because this decision was made at a committee of the whole meeting, council’s decision to take on this project must be ratified at its next regular meeting in two weeks.