Municipal politics are important!

By Cam Cotton-O’Brien

There are very few things involved in the world of politics which can be counted on to cause such a dramatic lack of interest as Calgary’s municipal elections.

Voter turnout in the last few years has been dismal and there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why that should drastically change by Oct. 15. Indeed, there are actually two less individuals (77) running for the jobs of mayor, alderman, and school board trustee than at the last election three years ago. Of these, two aldermen have already been acclaimed, since there was no one to run against them. Another foreboding sign for a poor election turnout is the already-dipping temperature gauge which–let’s face it–probably goes a fair way to deterring people from voting at the last-minute.

This is really a sad state of affairs because municipal government actually does have an important role to play in your day to day life (unless you are not a Calgarian, in which case they have less influence on you then a chicken sneezing in Hong Kong; feel free to take your chances). For students, one of the most important issues is surely transportation. Remember the tail end of last winter semester when the Gauntlet had to keep running stories on the potential for a Calgary Transit strike? A strike that threatened to shut down the system while we were all scrambling around writing exams? That could have hindered our ability to pick up booze to deal with the shock of receiving the grades from those exams? That falls under the jurisdiction of municipal government. That means if an incompetent political cadre is voted into office we could be left with an incredible mess of transit when the new deal expires in Jul. 2009.

Crime, too, is a huge issue in our clean city. There is a growing feeling crime is on the rise in Calgary and something needs to be done about it. Emergency services fall within the powers of the municipal government, and by extension, so does the ability to deal with most crime. It is hard to emphasize just how important this role is. The hiring and training of the emergency personnel is without doubt one of the most vital roles occupied by the city. It is imperative that elected members of government be able to function in this task at an extremely high level. Emergency Services deal with the frightening responsibility of administering aid in matters of life and death, so the administration of those services should not be left up to some hack simply because you couldn’t find your mittens and it was cold outside. If for no other reason, vote because of this.

The other heavyweight issue–particularly poignant during Homeless Awareness Week–is that of homelessness. While the care of the homeless falls under the mandate of the provincial government, the prevention of and cure for homelessness are both tasks left up to the city. This problem is on the rise and, taking into account the aforementioned cold weather is about to become even more troubling. In a city as rich as ours, it is irresponsible to ignore the plight of this segment of the population. Not voting in an election that so heavily influences their lives is exactly that: ignorant.

All that said, remember to bring a piece of valid photo ID. It’s the only way they’ll let you vote.

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