COLUMN: Go exercise your democratic right

COLUMN: Go exercise your democratic right

For political junkie nerds like myself, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Or perhaps, I should say, the electoral cycle.

Yes, general election day is this weekend, where residents in municipalities across the province are set to vote for their community leaders for the next four years.

Cranbrook residents can head to the polls at Laurie Middle School from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday to vote for six city councillors out of a field of 10 candidates.

Municipal elections are the grassroots of democracy; the most direct form of majority rules that carries tangible results, especially in a town like Cranbrook.

Exciting times, indeed.

Anyone can vote for the candidate they wish to support — and there’s no requirement to vote for all six council seats.

However, consider this a plea to exercise your democratic right to vote.

Last election cycle in 2014, only 39.66 per cent of eligible voters turned out to cast a ballot.

That’s right — only 5,786 of 14,589 eligible voters showed up to the polls.

Yikes.

Former city councillor Tom Shypitka captured the greatest number of ballots for the six council seats, garnering 3,191 votes.

That’s just over 21 per cent of the 14,589 eligible vote and it was the highest percentage out of all the candidates.

To be fair, the 2014 election turnout was higher than the previous cycle in 2011, which saw a turnout of only 35 per cent.

But still, when less than 50 per cent of eligible voters turn out to vote, it’s difficult for politicians and governments to claim they have a mandate.

So that is my challenge; I’m throwing down the gauntlet.

Saturday is (mostly) a day off from the Monday-to-Friday-nine-to-five grind, but there are 12 hours in the day to vote, so pick a window that works and get down to Laurie Middle School.

There has been ample coverage of all candidates from the Cranbrook Townsman to form an opinion on what each candidate is all about and what their priorities are. All of them have been active on social media as well, primarily Facebook, where they have engaged with residents and presented their election platforms.

The information is out there, so get researching.

Addressing a few repeatedly raised questions

Council eligibility

I’ve heard feedback from people concerned over two issues, among a myriad of others, during this election campaign.

People wanted to know why Danielle Eaton, who lives in Wardner, can run for Cranbrook city council.

The reason, is because she can.

There is nothing in the Local Government Act that prevents someone from living outside of a municipality from running for city council.

Under the Local Government Act, the requirements are as follows:

• the candidate must be 18 years of age or older on general voting day

• the candidate must be a Canadian citizen

• the candidate must have been a resident of British Columbia for at least six months prior to the election

Under that criteria, a Cranbrook resident could run for mayor of Vancouver if they wished.

For those who want to Google and read the legislation directly, it’s under Section 81, Division 5 and Part 3 of the Local Government Act.

Eaton has been transparent about where she lives on her campaign Facebook page. Despite living outside of Cranbrook municipal boundaries, both her and her husband own and operate separate businesses within the downtown core.

City management salaries

Every spring, before a mandated deadline at the end of June, the city has to publicly disclose Statements of Financial Information to the provincial government, which include remuneration to mayor, council and city staff with salaries over $75,000.

In 2017, the top earning city official was CAO David Kim, who pulled in $204,064, plus $6,303 in expenses.

In comparison, David Allan, the CAO for Courtney, B.C. — which has a population of roughly 25,000 — pulled in $172,772, with $12,235 in expenses.

Fort St. John, with a comparable population to Cranbrook, paid out $229,940 plus $9,9754 in expenses to city manager Dianne Hunter in 2016.

Management salaries are determined by individual contracts, and do not fall under the union agreement between the city and Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2090.

Whether management salaries are too high or not enough is an exercise of comparables and a question for the electorate.

Voters participate in elections with the expectation that those elected into public office will represent the city’s interest, both internally and externally.

And in a few days, voters will get the chance to make their voices heard, whether it’s for the status quo or for change.