Let Us Vote rattling city council
First we had the Occupy movement, then we had Idle No More, and now right here in Red Deer we have the birth of Let Us Vote.
While it may not reach the grand scale that the Occupy and Idle No More protests have, Let Us Vote certainly has the potential to bring political change to the streets of our own dear River City.
Social/political change often comes with the start of something small by the so-called “99 per cent” .
The Occupy protest began in September 2011 in New York. It soon spread to 82 communities, including, eventually, achieving a small presence in Red Deer.
Occupy brought attention to the disproportionate distribution of wealth, corruption, and social issues.
It’s difficult to sum up Occupy but it is in part a movement to make more people socially and politically aware of various injustices, and ultimately bring about change.
In Red Deer, those that participated in Occupy events seemed to want to underline the importance of democracy.
Idle No More began in Canada, as a movement by Aboriginal Peoples, inspired by the hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence in Ottawa.
Canadians across the country became part of the movement, which, among other things, raised awareness about aboriginal rights and again, social and political issues.
In Red Deer, Idle No more held several events, all peaceful, including a “flash mob” in mid-January.
“We showed that we’re supporting the chiefs and each other. We’re doing this for the land and water and not just out treaty rights. It’s about the economy and the land as well,” one of the protesters told the Red Deer Advocate.
We might have gone another decade without seeing so much political/social action in Red Deer in such a short span, albeit rather mild in the grand scheme.
But then along came Garfield Marks, and several other Red Deer residents, who are upset with what they believe is a lack of public input at city hall, and the rejection by city council to hold a plebiscite on whether Red Deer should have a ward system.
That plebiscite would have taken place during the municipal election to be held Oct. 21.
Let Us Vote formed after council rejected the idea of the plebiscite. It has gone so far as opening an office in downtown Red Deer to roll out a petition that will need 10,000 signatures to force a plebiscite. The petition will begin to circulate April 1.
Red Deer city council operates on an at-large system now where all councillors represent the entire city.
A ward system would see, for example, the city divided into quadrants, and two members of council in each quarter representing their constituents.
Since citizens became aware that there is going to be a petition, Marks has said that he’s shocked by the response.
It seems that people are talking to Let Us Vote not just about a ward system, but about all sorts of things.
“It’s amazing how big this thing is and how involved people can be when people want to get involved,” he said last week.
If council wasn’t listening when they rejected the ward plebiscite a month ago by a 5-3 vote, they certainly are now.
It would seem that Let Us Vote has already begun to cause change.
Some members of council are willing to start a discussion again on representation, including a ward system.
They are apparently feeling misunderstood, according to Coun. Lynne Mulder, who with other members of council wants a broader, more comprehensive discussion on electoral representation.
So Mulder and Coun. Paul Harris last week introduced a motion that could lead to further discussion on a ward system and other forms of representation.
That motion could be dealt with at council’s next meeting, on Monday.
Given that council is under refreshingly new pressure with the formation of Let Us Vote, my bet is we will see a ward system plebiscite after all.
Let Us Vote is guaranteed to shake up and remind council that they sit on council not because they were appointed, but because they were elected.
Mary-Ann Barr is the Advocate’s assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 403-314-4332.