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In Our Words: Get to the polls, today or Nov. 9

There are elections coming up here - elections, plural. For anyone looking for a quick little cheat sheet on those, here you go: There’s the Flin Flon byelection Oct. 28 - today.

There are elections coming up here - elections, plural.

For anyone looking for a quick little cheat sheet on those, here you go:

There’s the Flin Flon byelection Oct. 28 - today. You can vote in that one at Flin Flon City Hall - social distancing and masks apply, of course. On top of that, there are the Saskatchewan local elections, with council spots up for grabs in Creighton and Denare Beach. That one goes Nov. 9.

We’ve printed stories about who’s running in each of those elections - check those out, either here at our website or in our physical paper.

I know more people than ever before, at least in my lifetime, seem interested in politics in the world at large, but that’s usually federal or American politics. Interest in local elections seems to have stayed small. The last time the City of Flin Flon had a local election, all the way back in 2018, a whopping 1,067 people came out to vote. There were over 4,000 people on the City’s voters’ list - barely a quarter of the City came out to vote for council.

What can you do to shut down voter apathy? This is Flin Flon - nobody’s springing for punchy campaign ads or attacks on other candidates, at least not on a large scale. People might not even know who’s on the ballot. We’re trying to change that here - we’re sending out questionnaires to all the candidates running in local elections, including the Flin Flon byelection coming later this month. You can find what the five candidates have to say on a few different local issues later in this issue.

Do people just not think local councils and political figures are important? Do people just not care? I go to every council meeting in Creighton and in Flin Flon and crowds are usually small to non-existent - the number of times where the only people in the room are council, the mayor, a local employee or chief administrative officer and media is quite large.

Do people just not know what local governments do? Here’s a quick debrief - councils plan out most things in a community, what streets get paved, what construction takes place, keeping the buses running, boosting the internet, looking after parks and recreation, sanding the roads in the winter, housing, zoning, arts programming, funding for local projects, bylaw enforcement, property taxes and how that money is used… the list goes on.

Local governments can also lobby to other governments - the province, say, or even the federal level - to get things done that aren’t within the council’s purview - increasing healthcare spending, for instance.

There’s a lot at stake here. What’s with the lack of interest?

Most people don’t seem to care enough to run. The number of candidates who aren’t already councillors is small in Creighton and Denare Beach - two new faces in both communities. The rest of the slate is made up of people who have already been elected before. Few challengers have come up. When the Town of Creighton held a byelection in 2018, nobody even volunteered the first time around - the Town had to reopen the nomination period to get any bites.

No challengers came up for the mayor’s chair, either - for the first time I can recall, the mayors of Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach have now all run for office and won the spot with no opposition.

Do people think their vote just doesn’t count? In local elections, every vote absolutely counts. Take two recent elections in our area - that 2018 Creighton byelection I mentioned before first.

Once the nominations reopened, five people volunteered to run. On election day, Anita Rainville won the spot over Max Owen and the other three challengers.

Rainville got 77 votes. Owen got 76.

One vote was the difference-maker.

Once again, voter turnout was low - only about 20 per cent. That one person’s vote - we’ll never whose it was - proved to be enough to get Rainville on council.

Here’s another example - the 2014 municipal election in Flin Flon. George Fontaine went into that election as the sitting mayor, liked by some and controversial for others, challenged by Cal Huntley, then a former city council member.

Once again, turnout was low on election day for the mayor’s race - only 1,310 votes were cast.

The final score? Cal Huntley, 630 votes; George Fontaine, 626 votes. There are more seats in a Honda Civic than there were votes between those two men.

I know having more than one thing to vote for at one time is kind of overwhelming. The provincial government in Saskatchewan isn’t exactly doing local governments any favours by holding the provincial election days before municipal votes.

Remember last year in Manitoba when we had a provincial election and the federal election within weeks of each other? I remember it. It sucked.

Voter turnout tanked in some Manitoba ridings - in the riding Flin Flon is in, Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, more than 6,300 fewer people voted in 2019 than in 2015.

I’m not here to tell you who to vote for or what your main priorities should be. You’re a grown-up. You can figure that out yourself.

All I want you to do is vote.

This is your community, as it is mine. It’s in our best interests to elect competent, crafty individuals, especially at a time when our community’s main employer is soon to rip the rug out from under us.

Have your voice heard. Get your ass to the polls.