View Full Version : Voter turnout - zero in these GEA towns

17-09-2007, 09:37 PM
Voter turnout - zero in these towns

Mike Sadava, edmontonjournal.com
Published: 17 September 2007 8:58 pm

The voter turnout in the towns of Morinville and Gibbons, as well as the village of Hines Creek, will be a big fat zero.

But residents of these communities will all have good excuse for not going to the polls - their town councils have all been acclaimed.

"Is it apathy or is it satisfaction? I don't know," said Bill Nimmo, who is going into his ninth term as mayor of Gibbons, a town of 2,800. "People tend to be crisis-oriented - if there is a crisis, they react differently.

Mayor Lloyd Bertschi of Morinville said he was surprised that not one council seat is being contested.

He hadn't heard of anyone going after his job, but he had brochures ready to be printed just in case.

"It was either that we were doing a good job, or nobody else wants the misery," Bertschi said.

It's not that there's a lack of work in these communities for municipal politicians.

Morinville, a town of 6,775, is undergoing major expansion in the next three years, with 1,200 lots approved for residential development, he said. And the construction of upgraders slated for the area will have a major impact on Morinville.

Frank Campbell, a director of the Morinville Chamber of Commerce, said council has been seen as doing a fairly good job, and with reasonable taxes and businesses thriving, there have not been many major issues to rock the boat.

"If there was a lot of controversy, that's when people would come out of the woodwork," he said.

Nimmo is used to acclamation in Gibbons - this is the sixth time he has won the mayor's job without going to the polls.

While the whole Gibbons council has been acclaimed, at least there are two new faces on council because two councillors decided to step aside and two new ones put their names forward.

Bertschi said part of the reason for the lack of candidates in Morinville could be related to the boom - many people who might be interested in running are busy with their businesses and don't have time to take on the part-time council post, which pays $1,000 per month for councillor and $2,000 for the mayor.

Judith Garber, a political scientist who has studied municipal politics extensively, said local elections generally tend to favour incumbents, and it can take a pressing issue to convince people to run.

"It doesn't necessarily mean that people are happy," Garber said. "It may mean there is no compelling reason that pushes people over the hump to put out the energy and resources it takes to run for office."

There may a boom, but there are still people who are faring badly because of such side effects as high rents, but they are not likely to seek office, she said.

Generally local politics is not viewed as having the importance of provincial or federal politics by many people, but municipal politicians are grappling with important economic, social and environmental issues, and they can have a greater effect on policy than politicians at the senior levels of government, she said.

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Edmonton Journal 2007