EDITORIAL: Direct democracy

Perhaps a super-charged mayoral race will increase voter turnout in Parksville

Intriguing mayoral races often spike interest — and increase voter turnout — for municipal elections.

It seems we will enjoy spirited campaigns for the mayor’s chair in both Qualicum Beach and Parksville.

The race for mayor in Parksville has no incumbent now that Chris Burger has announced he will not seek re-election. It does have two current city councillors — Marc Lefebvre and Bill Neufeld — along with a candidate who managed less than 60 votes when he ran in 2011, Antonio Farinha.

Perhaps the lack of an incumbent and two councillors in the hunt will increase voter turnout this year in Parksville. We can only hope it will, because the participation rate was dismal last time around when Burger trounced former MLA Paul Reitsma, 2,355 votes to 749.

Only 35 per cent of eligible voters (3,264 of 9,344) bothered to cast a ballot in the Parksville elections of 2011. That’s disappointing and we suspect it will improve this year, with more issues (water treatment plant, for one), two sitting councillors and the fact the winner will be in office for four, instead of three, years this time around.

Qualicum Beach rarely, if ever, suffers from any kind of apathy when it comes to politics. In 2011 when Teunis Westbroek beat Mike Wansink 2,608 votes to 1,478, an impressive 57 per cent of  eligible voters (4,122 of 7,293) cast a ballot.

While it seems odd to trumpet a 57 per cent turnout as a wild success — why isn’t it north of 90? — we salute the people of Qualicum Beach for exercising their franchise. With the campaign already in nasty, personal mode, we can expect an even higher turnout on Nov. 15.

While we will attempt to feature each mayoral candidate in a 300-word-plus feature story (we have already done so with a few), there’s no way we can give the same treatment to each and every council candidate — historically there have been dozens when you combine Parksville, Qualicum Beach, the RDN electoral areas and school board. However, rest assured, you will get the best and most coverage of the civic elections from The NEWS.

Hmmm, the school board. With four schools closed by a board that has some members who got into office in 2011 on a keep-schools-open platform, we expect there will be increased interest in those races this year.

Municipal politics, the last bastion of direct democracy. You just have to love it.

— Editorial by John Harding

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