Editorial: Before the next election

"Winter can be harsh, especially for those not prepared, and it has felt long this year, but it is still beautiful."
“Winter can be harsh, especially for those not prepared, and it has felt long this year, but it is still beautiful.”

By: Korie Marshall

Election Day is almost here. But after the election, there are a few things I’ve noticed that I hope we’ll all remember to think about and deal with before next election. Four years may seem like a long time away, but I know some of these issues have been thought of before, and we all tend to put things off sometimes.

One issue is mail-in ballots. I’ve heard people in both Valemount and McBride want to be able to vote even if they can’t be here on Nov. 5th or 15th (or whatever date the next election is set for, it may be moved to October). It can be done, if it is allowed in the municipal Elections bylaw.

Another issue is clarity on the question of who can vote. I was surprised that some people who live in both Valemount and McBride thought they couldn’t vote because they didn’t own property, but I can see that being a question, since so many discussions have revolved around which property owners can vote and which can’t. Can a business property owner vote, do you get more than one vote if you own more than one property? What about the question of “residence” if you own more than one residential property? If your driver’s license says “Alberta” for example, but you have had a house here in Valemount for 20 years, and you’ve been paying taxes and utility bills – do you not live here too? Our municipal services are funded by property taxes, so I can see an argument for the property owners – whether residential or business, whether people who live here full time or only part of the year – to have votes. But our communities are made up of more than property owners. Essentially, if you are a Canadian citizen and over 18, you get to vote. The question is – where do you get to vote?

Which in itself leads to another question I have, and I’ve heard this from others as well. You only get a vote on who gets on the Village Councils if you live inside an essentially imaginary boundary line – one you only see on certain maps. Yet what happens in each of our Villages also has a large effect on the residents outside of those lines. There is definitely an argument to be made that representation on the Regional District’s Board of Directors may be skewed one way or another, and if certain services are paid for by the Regional District (our taxes, those of us inside AND outside the village boundaries), it would seem to make sense that the representative for Area H should get some say on how the villages spend the money.

The fact is, things that happen in McBride, Valemount, anywhere in between, and often north and south of us, affect all of us, even if just in trickle-down ways. The fact that the potential library expansions in each village has come up in forums for all three elections – McBride, Valemount and Area H – is telling.

I don’t know what the right answer is, but discussing these things, and making the rules and the reasons clearer is important. I hope after the dust settles from this election that we remember to at least think about and discuss these issues, because I think it can also alleviate a lot of bad feelings and tensions that can happen in small, close communities like ours.