General voting day is Oct. 20. That’s what you need to know.
But you should consider what Edwin Godkin, journalist and founder of The Nation wrote about in “The Problems of Municipal Government”: that the enemy the public contends with are those whom it elects — those whom it could avoid electing and, generally speaking, those whom the majority of voters are opposed to.
In 2014, the last municipal election, 25.6 per cent of Chilliwack’s population voted. Mayor Sharon Gaetz received 68.4 per cent of that vote, meaning, 17 per cent of Chilliwack voiced support for the city’s incumbent mayor.
Similarly in 2014, 35.1 per cent of Abbotsford voted. That equates to roughly 47,000 people, out of Abbotsford’s population of 140,000. Mayor Henry Braun beat Bruce Banman by 0.8 per cent — less than 600 votes.
“The point to which I wish to draw your attention is, however, that these rulers, such as you see them, enjoy their power through the votes of a minority of the population,” Godkin writes.
Originally published in 1894, the sentiment hasn’t much faded.
This is to say that you should vote. UFV students could very likely turn the vote. There’s a massive chunk of voters, made of diverse groups, who don’t seem interested in participating in the municipal process. It would be great if that changed.
The municipal level of government garners the least amount of public interest despite it forming the closest relationship with citizens. Their purview includes water and sewer utilities; garbage and recycling removal; road infrastructure maintenance, including snow removal and street lighting; fire prevention/suppression; municipal parks; land use planning and regulating; and bylaw maintenance and enforcement.
In British Columbia, municipalities are defined by the Local Government Act and Community Charter. Municipal governments are made up of a mayor and council. Municipal staff fulfill the duty of putting policy into action. They work in community development, planning, engineering, recreation, parks, and culture.
This week’s feature in The Cascade is a series of interviews with mayoral candidates for both Abbotsford and Chilliwack. The intent is to provide a platform for all candidates to voice their intentions and opinions on several key topics.
In most municipalities, you’ll vote for a mayor and councilors. Their office is held for a four-year terms. The Cascade avoids endorsing candidates in all elections, but we do encourage our readership to consider themselves participants in municipal and civic concerns.
Interested in voting? You must be 18 or older, a Canadian citizen, and for at least the past six months, a resident of B.C. You must also bring two pieces of official ID.
Now go vote. General voting day is Oct. 20.
Image: Caleb Campbell/The Cascade