Opinion: What will the 2017 civic election bring?

There was never a dull moment in Red Deer’s 2013 civic election campaign.

A record number of 30 candidates ran for eight council seats. Among the hopefuls was a slate of six candidates running under the banner of Red Deer First. This was a definite first for voters in Red Deer, and in Alberta.

They ran under one mandate of fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability.

While these colourful personalities helped liven up the otherwise humdrum all-candidates forums, Red Deerians were not easily swayed at this poor attempt at partisan politics. The group officially dissolved on election night.

A question about a ward system sparked debate throughout the city. Voters decisively said no to a ward system, voting 13,315 in support of the existing at-large system compared with 5,240 in favour of the ward system.

We had a two-person … rather five-person mayoral race that, no doubt, helped boost the voter turnout to 31.83 per cent, up 7.04 percentage points from the 2010 civic election. Tara Veer won the mayor’s job with 9,400 votes, followed by former Coun. Cindy Jefferies with 7,971 votes.

What will the 2017 civic election bring?

This time around there are 29 candidates, including seven incumbents on the ballot, one shy of 2013’s record.

Two-time Coun. Paul Harris will not seek a third term. In 2013, Harris was separated by a mere eight votes from the eighth elected newcomer, Tanya Handley. That means there will be at least one new face at the table.

The candidate mix includes a former councillor, a member of one of Red Deer’s first families, two teachers, businessmen, a peace officer, and a handful of relatively unknowns.

I have to wonder – are too many candidates a good or a bad thing? I’m hopeful this hodgepodge of candidates speaks to the level of engagement in the city.

Red Deerians want to make a difference. Only three of the 22 newcomers ran in the 2013 election. That means 19 candidates are stepping up and showing their desire to make Red Deer a better place to live. Kudos to them.

First-term Mayor Veer is being challenged by Sean Burke, 36, a recovered crystal meth addict who wants to help the homeless. Good for him. No mayor should ever run unchallenged.

Every four years we have the opportunity to cast a ballot for one mayor, eight councillors and 14 school board trustees. This is our chance to decide who will make the best decisions for our community.

It will be interesting to find out what the issues are in 2017. The economy, crime and spending will definitely be on the minds of voters as Alberta continues to slowly come out of the recession.

What’s on your mind?

I tend to think about voter apathy during elections. Voting and democracy is crucial in every society. It provides you an opportunity to be heard on your opinions.

Local governments are the closest to the people they represent. I think many people lose sight of this important fact. The council of the day makes decisions about services and infrastructure that impact people every single day. Think potholes, new roads, community programming and garbage collection.

I read in a local government law course that “if the provincial government were to disappear, it would only take a few days to notice. However if the municipal government were to disappear, the impact would be immediate.”

In 2013, 40,728 cast ballots out of 63,979 eligible voters.

I think we can do better Red Deer.


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