There were massive lineups at some polling stations on election day Saturday but so far the unofficial numbers show that voter turnout was actually down in most Vancouver Island municipalities.
Provincially the turnout dropped from 42 per cent in the last election in 2018 to 37 per cent this time around. On the South Island, even the cities with hotly contested races like Victoria and Saanich saw voter turnout drop while in Langford it did go up, but was still among one of the lowest turnouts on the island.
Further north, Nanaimo saw participation drop to just 24 per cent, Tofino plummeted from 65 per cent in 2018 to just 17 per cent and Campbell River was one of few places that saw an increase, rising from 25 per cent to 33 per cent.
“Saanich and Victoria dropped seven points, seven points we’ve not seen that kind of drop in the last 20 years,” said David Black, Communications and Culture professor at Royal Roads University.
On social media some posted that they didn’t vote because of long lineups and a lack of polling stations.
Others said there wasn’t enough information about voting locations and times, many said there were too many candidates but not enough easily available information about them and their platforms, while others voiced a sentiment that nothing ever changes anyway.
“We underestimate the importance of municipal government, as voters we tend to think of it as less interesting, it lacks the pageantry the drama of provincial and federal politics, it lacks the easy left-right spectrum by which we decode politics,” said Black.
He says municipal governments have an increasingly bigger voice on key issues like homelessness, health care and climate change but voters need to be made aware of it if you want them to get in line.
“The irony here is that municipal government is the level of government that affects your life the most immediately, the most consequentially, the pothole is fixed, the bylaw issue is addressed, you call the police and they are there to save the day,” he said.
He says all municipalities can do a better job of explaining themselves and trying to engage residents not just in the weeks before polls open, but over the next four years.
“It’s what you do between elections that makes turnout a good or bad news story.”