May the best, not richest, candidate win

Voting in municipal elections about more than local issues

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Amanda Liu, Bonnie Devine, Dan Knight, Jon Lord, Oscar Fech, Sandra Hunter, Joe Connelly, Gary Johnston, Barry Erskine, Craig Burrows, Wayne Stewart, Bob Hawkesworth, Barb Higgins, Naheed Nenshi and Ric McIver. Know who these names represent? You should have been able to guess by the last few, but these names represent the 15 mayoral candidates for the 2010 Calgary election. Some of these names are more widely known, such as McIver, Higgins and Nenshi. But are they more widely recognizable because of their political merit or their campaign budget? Or is it past fame? Has our electoral system boiled down to a popularity contest?

It is not surprising that the electorate is gravitating towards familiar names and ideas. Not many citizens, especially the youth, have time to research the 15 candidates and their platforms, the aldermen and the trustees. And why should we care? The issuesw being debated are quite trivial compared to the midterm and two assignments due next week. Surely our education and livelihood are more important than an airport tunnel or a few new LRT stations. It is only a municipal election right?

Well yes, but then again, its much more than just an election -- it's the great Canadian democracy. It's our way of life! Okay, maybe I am stretching it a little bit. Maybe voting doesn't matter so much on the municipal level. At higher levels of government, though our votes count less percentage wise, the issues discussed are of great importance to our lives, daily or otherwise.

The provincial and federal governments govern many aspects of our lives that we take for granted. For example our tuition, though it may be more expensive than what we would prefer, is a lot less than the full cost of our education. Health care, education, public infrastructure, law and order: these are all issues that should concern us. And of course, they deal with our money. Now that is a matter of concern. When you buy a new pair of shoes, do you pay the store and then expect them to pick out the best pair for you? No, because they don't know what type of shoe you would prefer.

Similarly, we pay taxes to our governments and expect them to provide services to our satisfaction. This is where voting and general citizen participation comes in. This is where you make it known that you want better roadways or lower taxes. And though your voice may not always be implemented, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you at least tried to have your voice heard.

Even for municipal elections, it is important for us to tell our leaders what we want from them. Tell them if we really want the big red pedestrian bridge or if we would prefer more police service. And though some of these debates may seem trivial over more immediate aspects of our personal lives, they represent a much larger force at work.

It's well-known that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Historically this referred to monarchs who had absolute rule over their people. The king ruled and the average citizen did not get his say. Thankfully, our government is not like that. We have the right to choose our government. We have the right to make our voices heard. So why shouldn't we have the right to forgo those rights and not vote, or participate in the government?

Because power in the hands of many is better than power in the hands of a few, or one. This is one of the central tenants of the modern democracy. By forgoing our right, or more accurately, responsibility to vote, we reduce power into the hands of the few who decide to vote. In addition, those in power only have to please those who vote to stay in power.

Young voters often get despondent about municipal issues. They prefer to enact change in different ways, or find themselves too busy to learn about their candidates. Resources like the Internet, however, have made it easier than ever to learn about candidates who are trying to get their platforms out. It takes less time than many people think and it's always time well spent.