I’m usually pretty proud of Campbell Riverites and how they step up to the plate when things need to get done.
Whether it’s supporting a GoFundMe campaign for a family that lost their home in a fire, coming together to help a local non-profit do critical work within the community or volunteering to clear snow off sidewalks and driveways of people who can’t do it themselves, the people of this community regularly make me proud to call this place home.
I’ve always been confident that people here will do the right thing when it matters.
But I’m sorry to say that confidence was shaken this past weekend.
It’s been about four months since Michele Babchuk was elected to the provincial legislature. It’s been about three months since the announcement of when and how she would be replaced on Campbell River City Council. It’s been about six weeks since the Mirror started covering the candidates who were vying to replace her, finding out where they stood on the matters that mean the most to the community. We ran at least a dozen stories in our pages and online about who these people are and hosted a two-hour live forum one night that was available to watch whenever you wanted for a couple of weeks leading up to election day. There were 50 hours of in-person voting over five days, and everyone who wanted to could have voted by mail if they preferred that option.
And only 8.6 per cent of those who could have voted bothered to put in the minuscule amount of effort required to do so.
I popped into the Community Centre one afternoon last week to cast my vote and was through the doors, had my ballot filled out and counted and was back at my vehicle in under four minutes. It could have been even easier than that if I’d wanted it to be, because I could have voted weeks earlier in my underwear at home if I’d asked the city to send a ballot to my house.
I would have worn pants on my way back to the mailbox, probably.
In any case, I just don’t understand how there are seemingly thousands of people in this community who constantly complain about the decisions made around council chambers who didn’t bother to have their voice heard when they were given the opportunity.
I was optimistic when there were eight candidates who put their name forward for just one open seat.
I thought that people were going to finally be engaged.
I wasn’t under any delusion that three quarters of eligible voters were going to show up en masse and cast a ballot. Byelections have, historically, smaller turnouts than general elections. But the 2018 general election saw a quarter of voters come out to vote. The one before that saw more than a third.
More than one candidate who didn’t win a seat in 2014 received more votes in that election than the total number that were cast last weekend altogether.
This has to change.
The municipal government is the level that has the most direct and immediate impact on your everyday life. Pay attention to what they’re doing and whether the decisions they make are steering the community toward the future you want for it.
Otherwise, we’ll end up with a community you don’t like, and it’ll be your own fault for not putting in four minutes of “effort” once every few years to put people in charge who represented the future you wanted.