Only 344 days until the next election on the North Shore.
Oct. 20, 2018. Circle the date.
It’s a Saturday, so that should make it easier to cast your ballot.
Here’s hoping something works, because voter turnout in municipal elections is dismal.
It’s not just a local problem. Everywhere across North America, turnouts are typically under 30 per cent.
The North Shore is no exception – 27 per cent of those eligible turned up to vote in the District of West Vancouver, 28 per cent in the City of North Vancouver and only 23 per cent in the District of North Vancouver.
Two out of three of the mayors, Michael Smith in West Van and Richard Walton in North Van District, were acclaimed, i.e., elected without opposition.
To me, it’s the great mystery of the age why folks don’t vote, especially in municipal elections.
Lots of people vote for premier or prime minister, even though Justin Trudeau has loftier fish to fry than the good people who deliberate over keeping your streets safe, collecting your trash, deciding if you do or do not need a stop sign at the foot of your street, or deliberating on that proposal to put a 20-storey tower next door.
Because all that and more is the responsibility of your municipal council, and by some miracle, we are somehow gifted with intelligent, competent and hardworking municipal leaders such as the abovementioned Smith, Walton, and their City counterpart Darrell Mussatto.
And all the others who eat, breathe and sleep politics.
It’s a myth that being a municipal councillor is a part-time job.
Part time for a workaholic, maybe.
But count on it: whenever your neighbourhood association, fraternal organization, or constituent assembly has a meeting (usually in the off hours), you can count on the presence of a municipal politician, quietly doing his or her job.
You could argue that they’re just working the vote, and yes, they do have to get themselves re-elected if they want to keep serving the public.
But isn’t it a thankless task when they serve the public and more than two out of three don’t bother to acknowledge their efforts by voting?
If you disagree with me, just turn up and vote in the next election, 344 days away. Plenty of time to plan.
My point is, it’s not the fault of the politicians – or maybe it is.
It could be they’re so good, we take them for granted.
Leap ahead to the first work day after Oct. 20, 2018 and it’s a sure bet that the leaves will be swept out of the drains, the trash will be collected, bylaw officers will still be issuing tickets, schools will be open and kids will be learning.
Situation normal. For now.
But I’m afraid that like newspapers (present company excluded, of course), democracy at the local level is becoming a sunset industry.
Older people vote in much higher numbers than the rest of the population. Is it because they’re the last ones who remember what they sacrificed to keep democracy safe for a bunch of ingrates who can’t make it three blocks to the voters booth?
Lest we forget.
I’m not sure how to solve this. I’m not even sure there is a solution.
In my last column, I wrote about the nascent North Vancouver Citizen Action Association, which is at least an attempt to stimulate citizen engagement in the political process.
Marks for trying, although I am worried that the NVCAA will appeal to the same people who are already engaged: the handful of political wonks who steadfastly attend Monday night council meetings and town halls.
There are some who think online voting is the answer. And maybe it is. Instead of all that bricks and mortar activity, just press a button.
You could even register on Facebook.
If you can buy marijuana or a car online, why not elect a school trustee, council or mayor?
If you’re worried about Vladimir Putin hacking the voters list, or making up fake news about the District of North Van, surely he’s too busy messing with the U.S. or the U.K. to worry about the NV.
Got a better idea?
Journalist and communications consultant Paul Sullivan has been a North Vancouver resident since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Madonna. firstname.lastname@example.org