The upcoming municipal election provides Calgarians with their best chance to influence government. Civic government is closer to its constituents than either provincial or federal, and, in turn, has the most effect on our day-to-day lives. The city provides the vast majority of government services used by people and makes most of the laws and regulations that shape our lives.
Unfortunately, voter apathy undermines the legitimacy of the City Council. Voter turnout for the last municipal election (in 2001) was 38.3 per cent, slightly higher than the 34.5 per cent average of the three previous elections.
Even though the 2001 election was one of the most hotly contested municipal elections in recent memory, with many long time incumbents--including the mayor--not running, significantly less than half of all eligible voters cast a ballot. Even with a landslide victory, none of the winners could claim to have the support of the majority of the population that they supposedly represent.
The prospects for voter turnout this year are dismal. Four acclimations for aldermen and only six mayoral candidates, a third the number in 2001, show a definite disinterest in city politics amongst the general population. The lowest voter turnout since Confederation in June's federal election echoes this sentiment. Politics are no longer a major concern for most Canadians.
However, with several major issues facing the new city council, including infrastructure, continued expansion, and increased monetary demands, the time is ripe for citizens to make their votes count. With the current council's lacklustre track record including the East Village fiasco, tax increases, the use of the GST rebate, and unpopular land deals; generating large amounts of discussion, hopefully more electors will show up at the polls this Monday.
Even with four acclimations and only one serious mayoral candidate, enough spoiled ballots, votes for alternative candidates, or votes for incumbents will help restore the legitimacy of this most important level of government, and provide a clear mandate for the next three years to the new city council.