Voting is hard!

In the last federal election, Canadian voter turnout hit a record low, with just shy of 60% of the population casting a ballot on October 14, 2008. Hearing that over one-third of us chose not to exercise the right to vote is depressing … until you hear that fewer than one-third of us bothered to vote at all in the last round of civic elections in British Columbia in 2005. With 26% voter turnout, New Westminster was only slightly below the B.C. average of 30%.

This is not something to be proud of.

And yet, this year’s election, we may see even worse numbers. Few people in Canada were happy with this month’s federal election results, no matter who they voted for. The whole exercise, as Rick Mercer pointed out, was nothing but a $300M waste of time.

Says Wikipedia:

The basic formula for determining whether someone will vote is

PB + D > C[4]

Here, P is the probability that an individual’s vote will affect the outcome of an election, and B is the perceived benefit of that person’s favored political party or candidate being elected. D originally stood for democracy or civic duty, but today represents any social or personal gratification an individual gets from voting. C is the time, effort, and financial cost involved in voting. Since P is virtually zero in most elections, PB is also near zero, and D is thus the most important element in motivating people to vote. For a person to vote, these factors must outweigh C. (Emphasis mine)

Whether or not the formula above is strictly true, it sure sums up the feeling for most people.

It takes creative thinking and an Annie-like sense of optimism to believe that your individual vote will impact the outcome of an election at the best of times. When you live in B.C. and CBC literally calls the outcome of the election the minute the polls close in your province, before any ballots in your province are counted, it’s almost impossible.

Add to this a growing cynicism about the political system and the politicians in general, and you get a populace who don’t feel their vote matters and doesn’t feel there’s much benefit in choosing one person or party over another (because “they’re all crooks”). That leaves only civic duty – or in today’s context, a sense of social or personal satisfaction in voting- to get you to the polling-place.

What does all this have to do with the civic election? Well having just gone through the rigamarole of a federal election that cost millions of dollars and changed virtually nothing, what little sense of ‘duty’ that still exists today has been spent.

For conscientious voters, it also means that having done the research to pick a federal candidate, you now have to start over and select not only one favourite, but a pack of them, including mayor, councillors and school board.

The time-pressed among us simply pick a party at the federal level rather than getting to know the local candidates, but that’s often not an option at the municipal level. Here in New West, party politics are only just beginning to infiltrate the local political scene, but it’s not really clear what policies really differentiate Voice New West from the current council other than a dislike of current mayor Wayne Wright (note to Wayne: time to update your site … it’s still plugging all-candidates’ meetings from 2005!).

To paraphrase Teen Talk Barbie, “Voting is hard!” By which I mean, yes there’s some work involved, but it’s time to suck it up buttercup. Your city council is guaranteed to make decisions that will impact your quality of life, from potentially increasing property taxes to supporting community gardens, to improving parks and rec facilities and shaping the character of your neighbourhood.

Will and I will blog the information and impressions we have regarding New Westminster politics leading up to and beyond V-day. We’re trying to line up some interviews with our local candidates, and we’ll also try to dig into some of the top issues we see here in New West.

Drop us a line in the comments if you’ve got a specific question or issue you want us to tackle before the election and we’ll do our best to accommodate.

Election 2008!

It is a great time to start a blog about New Westminster. Not only have we just completed a federal election cycle (where two incumbent New Democrat MPs Peter Julian and Dawn Black were returned to Ottawa to represent their ridings) but a municipal election is at hand as well. Hope for a warm, dry day for Saturday November 14th 15th! That is our day to go to the polls. The City web-page has information here and you can find links to many of the candidates running for Mayor, council or as a school trustee in the sidebar of this site.
In keeping with this blog’s mandate to be about all things New West, I will to my best to keep the site updated, add commentary and present some of the interesting personalities and highlights of the campaign. I have emails in
now with a number of candidates asking for interviews or statements and just this weekend I kicked things off with a visit to the official campaign launch events for both Mayoral candidates.

I have to say, this might be a confusing year for some New Westminster
voters. For the first time that I know of, there will be a slate of candidates known as Voice of New Westminster running as a team against all other candidates. The Mayoral candidate for Voice, Blair Armitage is one of the founding members on the slate and the current Chair for the VANOC (2010 Olympic games) steering committee for the athletes village. On Saturday, yesterday, Voice New Westminster opened their office at the base of Belmont towers (near the Hub Barbershop, across from Starbucks). The office was busy with lots of supporters and street traffic and they were serving coffee, tea and cookies.I have not really gotten to the bottom of the reason for the slate as it has been the usual practice to run as an individual candidate in New Westminster elections. With some luc

k, I hope to have some direct information from their campaign.

Today was the opening of the campaign office for the re-election of the incumbent candidate, Mayor Wayne Wright. Their office in the 600 block of 12th st was also busy as a number of supporters shared laughs, hot-dogs, empanadas, and refreshments. Mayor since 2002 and often cited as the driving force behind “The Worlds Largest Tin Soldier” Wayne Wright shared the day with other candidates, supporters, curious citizens and other notables like members of the city’s emergency services and recently re-elected MP, Peter Julian.
From my uninformed position, the voice group does seem motivated to change the landscape of New Westminster city politics but the folks at Mayor Wright’s campaign do not lack for a positive attitude. The atmosphere at the 12th street campaign office was upbeat and festive. I expect to see a lively contest between the Armitage/voice contingent and those supporting Wayne Wright’s bid for re-election. I hope to get into this more as the campaign goes on. Check back here for updates.