Thursday’s municipal by-election has come and gone and a winner has been declared. A good man to be sure, one whose love of this community has been shown many times before his gargantuan campaign signs were erected, and whose love of community will continue to be shown in the months and years to come.
Love of community was not absent in the hearts of any of the candidates. Some presented it in terms of family; others presented it in terms of opposition to what they see as abhorrent photo radar or council spending practices. But each expressed their vision of what was necessary to make the community they love a community worthy of even greater love.
It is cliché to say there were no losers in Thursday’s election. We won’t say it because the habit of politically correct speech for the purpose of bolstering self-esteem is rubbish in a society that prizes and values cynicism and snark. It is also not true. There was only one winner in the by-election and he won by a margin of 32 votes. The other five were, by virtue of the fact they did not win, losers. Not capital L losers or 90-degree angled thumb and forefinger against the forehead losers. Just losers in the election and there is no shame in losing an election.
The biggest loser was the process and the tax payer who footed the bill for a by- election that had almost as many candidates as voters. Three local newspapers covered the election, the candidates, the issues and the details on where and when to vote. And yet only 13.68 per cent of eligible voters chose to vote. The small voter turnout is minimal compared to the 41 per cent turnout in the municipal election of 2010, the highest turnout in recent memory.
There is a reality check here. Between the election in 2010 and 2012 there was an increase in eligible voters in the neighbourhood of 1,200 people. This is because Election 2010 was based on 2008 census data, 2012 on 2011 census data. The earlier election turnout of 41 per cent was likely lower than stated due to two years of undocumented population increase. If the number in 2010 was closer to 30 per cent in the last full on and fully-engaged municipal election, it seems this government, its administration, and the broader community is not connecting with the commuter resident.
Until we can find a way to make the resident who lives in Morinville but works and plays in Edmonton take a stake and some stock in this community, we and they are losing out. It is this, more than anything else that will cause low turnout to events, concerts, carnivals, and even municipal by-elections.
The work on that initiative must not rest solely with councillors and town employees.