Monday, November 17, 2008

The Get out the vote messages didn't resonate as well as they could have

The final thing that Prince Rupert residents would have seen when they put down their Daily News from Friday night, would have been a number of stories urging local residents to make the trek to the polls on Saturday.

A noble cause and a push in the community that might have given one hope that the democratic process would find a receptive audience and a growing throng of voters at the Civic Centre on Saturday.

Alas, as the 41 percent vote total outlines, the participation rate this year was even less involved than that of three years ago when 46 perecnt of Rupert's voters headed for the polling stations. This years result provides for a turnout that fell short of expectations, despite the best efforts of the various community leaders who urged for a strong response to the issues for a strong voice.

That gives the community three years to try and understand why the interest in how we are governed is disconnecting from those that we (or at least some) send off to council and the Mayoralty to work on our behalf.

While we toss around those ideas, we’ll offer up some of the final day calls for action, which this year seemed to go unheeded by the majority of the city’s eligible voters.

We begin our tour of the get out the vote campaign with a front page, headline story from Friday’s Daily News, which focused on the First Nations of the community and the quest to increase the participation rate of that community.

Elders discuss issues that important to the Kaien Island First Nations
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, November 14, 2008
Pages one and three

Respect is a two-way street. At the Kaien Island First Nations that was the message they were trying to convey not just to the next city council but also to the whole community.

On Thursday, the elders invited the Daily News to survey their views at their weekly council meeting and one theme was voiced by many sitting at the table – respect needs to be shared with the local First Nation’s community, and likewise the First Nations community must begin to respect the city council.

“And we do that by voting. We need to get out and vote,” said Louisa Sanchez.

Concerns ranged from lack of quality shopping options in town, to working with senior levels of government, to increased support for the All Native Basketball Tournament.

“The tournament is a lot of work and we start early in the year, planning and shopping – the work is year-round. It’s not an easy thing,” said Mona Alexcee.

She added that the elders’ support for the ANBT is a business in and of itself because it was the only time the Kaien Island elders could fundraise for their own organization, for which they receive no funding from any level of government.

ANBT President Clarence Martin said that his was an important issue that the next council will need to address.

“This a second Christmas season for Prince Rupert and that needs to be attributed to our past committee members like Russell Gamble. This year there will be almost 70 teams,’ said Martin.

One name that was mentioned on more than one occasion is Iona Campagnolo, the former city councillor and federal MP, who is credited by many of the elders as being a champion of equality as a Liberal MP.

“Even though this is NDP country she made a major contribution,” said Leonard Alexcee.

This year, there is First Nations representation for both city council and school trustees.

George Sampson and Gabe McLean are both running for council and many First Nations candidates have put their names up for consideration for school trustee positions.

That involvement was important to elders council members, who said participating in municipal governance was a natural fit given the percentage of population aboriginals represent in Prince Rupert.

“We’re down but now out. Not at all. Let’s become doctors and lawyers. And we have to run for office too,” said Murray Smith.

Smith added that’s why the council and school trustee candidates were commendable.

“These are brave people,” he said.

Don’t be left on the outside
Farley Stewart
I need a hero
The Daily News
Friday, November 14, 2008
Page nine

Well just one more day and we will find out who will be working on city council for the next three years.

I’m finding this year’s slate of candidates for council very interesting. But the question looming out there for me is what it’s going to take to get more of our urban Aboriginal people to run for public office, let alone vote.

Now you all know this part; the last I heard our community population was around 12,000 people now for arguments sake I’ll say our aboriginal population is 40 percent. Quick math then says that 40 percent is 4,800.

Now that’s a conservative number now how many of that 4,800 is of voting age? It is our hope that we can get at least 50 percent of the aboriginal population out to vote we can make a difference.

When you go to vote tomorrow make sure you bring some identification and bring a friend, it’ll take you at the most 10 minutes out of your day.

One rationale explained to me was that our peoples lack of trust in the system. I have heard that one too but the other side of that is how long do you as an urban aboriginal person want to be on the outside looking in. Others would say racism and others would say apathy limit our participation to get involved with the elections that happen.

For many of us it’s time to stop with the excuses and let’s stand up and be counted. I guess this is where some of us come in and we start to educate our people and show them that the only walls that we put up that prevent us from running for public office and voting is the walls we as individuals put up.

And if you want to be taken seriously and are getting tired of being ignored then do something about it. The first step in that journey could be with you going out on Saturday and exercising your right to vote. Let the community know that you want to be a part of this society our home our native land. (I couldn’t resist).

During the last federal election I do appreciate the city having a silent auction in the hallways of the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre it gave many of us a chance to look for a bargain but also encourages some interaction and socialize. I brought my daughters and they had a bunch of questions about the election, they certainly felt comfortable being a part of the process.

Just to remind you on another note, you need to check out this; Joseph Boyden of M├ętis heritage was recently named winner of the Giller Prize Canada’s fiction for his latest novel, Through Black Spruce, about a Cree woman’s search for her missing sister, as well as an account of how drugs and violence plague life on a Northern Ontario reserve.”

As reported the city still has not put up a sign to encourage young women not to hitchhike similar to what they have in Terrace. Isn’t that amazing, we’ll see how much longer it takes, I’m not sure what the problem is but I think we should all be putting a call into city hall and asking them what the delay is.

If it’s a matter of money, let’s find out how much it costs to put it up ourselves and let’s do it. Can we do it… yes we can.

Peace and don’t forget to vote.

The real value of democracy comes when you get involved
Charles Justice
Green Justice
The Daily News
Friday, November 14, 2008
Page nine

Recently my wife and I went to the municipal all-candidates meeting at Chances. I‘ve been living in Prince Rupert for almost 16 years and each time that there is a municipal election it seems more important and more interesting than the last.

It’s only in the last two years that I’ve actually attended any city council meetings and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see democracy in action in every one of them.

I’ve lived in Vancouver and Montreal – two big cities where you could never get the access to cit y council that you can here. There is something to be said for a place the size of Prince Rupert.

It’s possible to get acquainted with the mayor and city council members. There isn’t a huge distance between them and the public the way there is in the big city.

Sunday’s all candidates meeting was fun. I’ve been so wired to the U. S. Presidential election and the Canadian Federal election that I’d lost touch with what it feels like to be undecided. Not anymore.

There are two mayoralty candidates, both former one term mayors of Prince Rupert. Judging by they words, either one would make a good mayor.

There were five incumbent city councilors (Ken Cote has retired) and 10 wannabees. They all got to have their say and I thought it gave a pretty good sense of where each of them stood on the issues.

If you didn’t get a chance to go to either of the two all-candidates meetings you can still listen to this last one on Channel 11 each day at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., as I recall. Or visit and check out who is running for what. Then google the candidates and go to their web pages.

Unlike our federal and provincial and the U. S. Presidential elections ideology and negative campaigning don’t really come into the picture. All the candidates came across as practical and pragmatic and that’s a relief.

Most seemed aware of the financial and employment problems that we face here, most had good ideas for solutions and most saw the importance of having a well-thought-out vision for the future of our town.

Of all the new faces I was most impressed by the bus driver. Now there’s a great occupation to have as a city councillor. He’s bound to get an earful from a good cross-section of citizens every day.

I liked the way he suggested, more than once, that more people should take the bus. He’s right and everybody knows it. You can save money and make this a greener city by taking the bus. He’s got my vote.

I hope the turnout is goo. The turnout for the recent Canadian election was terrible. On the other hand, the turnout for the American election was the best it’s been since the 1960’s.

That’s because Americans are so motivated to avoid a repeat of the last eight years and so inspired by the promise of Barack Obama.

Democracy is a treasure that we’ve guilt up over the years. In my opinion a treasure is only valuable when it gets shared. If you horde it it omes meaningless, it loses its value.

When we vote, when we attend city council meetings, when we petition city council, when we run for council and when we write letters to the editor we are making democracy more valuable.

The more people get involved, the richer we all are. So get out and vote this Saturday and make a difference to the future of this fair city.

No comments: