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EDITORIAL: Use array of election tools to choose wisely

"Local governing bodies often preside over the kinds of decisions that affect us most. To do the job well, those elected must be in tune with our needs."

Gazette reporters have been working hard in the lead-up to the Oct. 18 municipal election to give readers as many tools as possible to help inform their decisions.

None have been as telling as candidates' answers to questions from our newsroom and the public.

It can be a lot to wade through.

Please, stick it out. Pull out the Q&As from our pages over the past several weeks' issues or visit our 2021 Municipal Election pages online. Much insight can be found from these responses.

These answers, along with how candidates address impromptu questions in virtual forums, and their official platforms, should give electors a healthy cross-section of topics on which to vote in support of or against hopefuls for mayors, councils, and school boards.

Take advantage of email addresses, and in-person opportunities to interact with the people who will end up making key decisions for our municipalities and school communities.

We must use these tools wisely, to determine which candidates' views align most closely with our own.

It's important to note, that no one thing need form our decision.

Words on paper are part of the process, but look beyond them and read between them to examine the tone of the responses; whether candidates have taken the time ahead of declaring their intentions to run to become familiar with the important issues; whether their views are clearly communicated. 

Body language and tone of voice in virtual forums also hold important clues.

Turnout for past municipal elections has historically been poor — St. Albert's 2017 election saw unusually high voter turnout, at 42.9 per cent; 38.13 per cent of voters showed up in 2013; while 2010 saw only 34.16 per cent.

Chaldean’s Mensah, an associate professor of political science at MacEwan University, said in a story in today's Gazette the risk of voting fatigue is also likely to be high in a municipal election just a month after a federal election.

The fourth wave of a pandemic also doesn't help nudge that number upward.

But with another round of advance polls from today until Oct. 15, and the opportunity for mail-in ballots, too, there is no reason we can't reach beyond the 42.9-per-cent mark of 2017.

Judging by the number of voters who showed up at Servus Place and St. Albert Community Hall on opening day of advance polls, Oct. 4, it's certainly possible.

Returning officer David Leflar said in an email to The Gazette the poll had been “very successful,” with 500 people voting between both locations.

As of Oct. 12, St. Albert had seen 3,014 voters from all advance polling stations, city spokesperson Cory Sinclair said in an email. 

Another Gazette story in today's paper checked in with residents who lined up in large numbers last week to mark their ballots in advance.

With all of the challenges our councils and school boards are currently facing, amid a pandemic and increasing fiscal restraints, many see this municipal election as pivotal.

Local governing bodies often preside over the kinds of decisions that affect us most. To do the job well, those elected must be in tune with our needs.

The only way to make sure that happens is for us — voters; taxpayers; stakeholders — to show up.

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.