Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Mynarski candidates share how they'd entice residents to get out and vote
Of Winnipeg's 15 wards, Mynarski had the lowest voter turnout in the last civic election as just over a quarter of eligible voters cast a ballot in 2006. Residents groups are trying to reverse the low voting trend, but it will be an issue for Mynarski's next city councillor to tackle, too. So, if elected, how would Mynarski's six council candidates look to improve civic engagement in the ward?
Ross Eadie, former school trustee
Launched his campaign by holding hot dog barbecues in Mynarski parks. If elected, he thinks keeping the barbeques alive would help boost voter engagement with city hall. He's also pondering a minor boost to ward budgets to support a stronger civic government presence in a ward. "People decide to vote based on whether they think the political system involves them," he said.
Greg Littlejohn, lawyer
Hopes to improve access to polling stations, a big problem in a ward with large chunks of poverty and low mobility. "The lack of any polling station west of Main and east of Salter, from the CPR yards to Luxton Avenue West, is a problem and I believe one of the reasons why the voter turnout in those neighbourhoods is particularly low," Littlejohn said. "The voter turnout would be greatly improved if people could vote at any polling station on election day, in the same way they can in advance polls."
Jenny Motkaluk, retired vice-president of IT sales firm
While pondering reasons for low voter turnout, Motkaluk realized city rules put civic elections on the last Wednesday of October... the same day social assistance cheques are released. For voters who rely on assistance, scrambling to get and cash the cheque and buy needed groceries keeps them from the polls. Motkaluk vows to try and move the voting day to a different day of the week.
Trevor Mueller, construction surveyor
He's seen how much more politically and community active neighbours became when they started meeting for cleanups and other neighbourhood activities. Replicating that on a ward-wide scale is key, he says. "Once you can start getting them going on something that makes them feel involved in something... then they're going to be active for a whole range of activities, including voting."
John Petrinka, non-profit advocate
Community involvement is crucial, he agrees -- but Petrinka says the best way to accomplish that is by encouraging an economic model of "entrepreneurial excellence" by pairing inner-city youth with retired business people to learn to start small businesses. "That will transfer into more participation at a number of different levels, including voting."
David Polsky, sales rep
"We have a large number of voters who are feeling detached, and feeling that no one cares," he said. His preferred solution: broadening community centre programs to include wider options for families and seniors, "not just the hockey players and baseball players. We need to bring everyone back into our community and the best way of doing that is community centres."
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