‘Be a Voter’ shines light on local politics

Only 29.05 per cent of those who could vote, got off the chesterfield and trundled down to a polling station in November 2008 to elect Mayor Ernie Daykin and his crew.

When he looked at the numbers, Fred Armstrong figured out that because of low voter turnout, it took only a quarter of the eligible voters in B.C. to kill the Harmonized Sales Tax in last summer’s mail-in referendum.

When it came to choosing the seven politicians who ran Maple Ridge the last three years, the numbers aren’t that much better.

Only 29.05 per cent of those who could vote, got off the chesterfield and trundled down to a polling station in November 2008 to elect Mayor Ernie Daykin and his crew.

To ensure that number doesn’t slip even further, Armstrong, communications manager with the district, has taken charge of the ‘Be A Voter’ campaign.

The concept was developed in consultation with other members of Metro Vancouver, but Armstrong designed the actual ads and found seven Maple Ridge residents, from all walks of life, who had one thing in common: they all voted.

Each of the seven ads includes a photo and a mini-biography and tries to get out the message that voting is for everyone, rather than telling people to vote. They’ll run in local newspapers while total cost for the campaign will be $5,000.

One shows retired Canadian Airborne Regiment member Richard Vandekamp and reads: “I’m a grandparent, military veteran, volunteer, voter.”

He says that he knows the sacrifices that veterans have made to defend democracy.

For Armstrong, local government is crucial to modern life.

“When you turn on the tap in the morning to brush your teeth, it never occurs to you that water won’t flow out of the tap,” Armstrong said.

But that’s not the case in much of the world, he adds.

Many assume that safe infrastructure just happens, rather than being a product of stable, local government.

“I think we take them for granted.”

For those reasons, people should take an interest in who sits at the council table because it’s that group that decides where roads or houses are built.

The ads will appear in local papers from now until the election and on the district website, where clicking on it will direct browsers to the district’s election information.

So far, feedback on the ads have been good.

“I’m hoping that as we move through this campaign … some of those ads we put out will resonate more than in the past.”

While voter turnout in Maple Ridge is better than in some municipalities, Armstrong doesn’t want to see it slip and would even like to see it hit the 45-per-cent range.

People should realize that anyone can vote, renters or homeowners. You just have to live in Maple Ridge to cast a ballot, he points out.

And if you only know three or four candidates, or just one, who you’d like to see on council, you only have to vote for that person.

While some point out that incumbent candidates have an easier time being elected because people know their name, each election sees a few defeated. In the last five elections, Maple Ridge residents have never re-elected a mayor, Armstrong points out.

“The electorate here in our community, if you look at past history … I don’t know that anybody who serves here ever felt they were secure.”

• Voting day is Saturday, Nov. 19 but there are two advance polls, Sat., Nov. 5 and Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., at municipal hall.

On election day voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at seven polling stations throughout the district.

Election results will be announced in council chambers and results will be posted online at mapleridge.ca and on the district’s Facebook and Twitter sites. Lists of candidates who’ve already filed are already posted on the district site, along with contact information.