Election 2015: Fernie accepts Community Voter Challenge

Fernie has joined close to a dozen other communities in the Kootenays in accepting a voting challenge put forth by the City of Nelson.

It’s been a long election campaign to date, but there is an end in sight. The 42nd Canadian federal election is less than two weeks away and early voting runs from Oct. 9-12.

As a way to get people interested in taking part in the vote, the City of Fernie, along with 10 other communities in the Kootenays, has accepted the Community Voter Challenge.

The Community Voter Challenge, which was initiated by the City of Nelson, is a citizen’s initiative to increase voter turnout in the community. All eligible voters are encouraged to cast their ballots this month.

The challenge will look at issues such as which community can show the greatest percentage increase in voter participation over the results from the 2011 federal election and how many people actually vote compared to the total eligible voters.

CBC’s Rick Mercer has been invited to visit the winning community after the election to perform one of his infamous rants about what has been done to increase voter turnout.

Mayor Mary Guiliano, in a letter to the challenge committee, said the City of Fernie is pleased to take part in the challenge.

“This is a great initiative and fun way to increase voter turnout rates and get the conversations started,” she said in the letter. “Council has indentified community engagement at all levels as a priority and the Community Voter Challenge is an opportunity to engage youth, elderly, community and service organizations, businesses and recreational groups to all get involved.”

City councilor Jon Levesque said there are many reasons to vote, and said even the youth not yet old enough to vote can still take part in the election process.

“Politics needs to come back to the kitchen table,” he said, adding youth can influence their parents by asking about political issues.

“Our youth need to demand that their parents engage; our youth need to demand that their parents inform them, and tolerate nothing else.”

It starts with education, Levesque said.

“Education reform is the key here. We need to make sure that our youth get involved now,” he said. “Let’s educate the [electorate] – little things like understanding that you don’t vote for a prime minister, you vote for your local MP.”

Levesque said he encourages residents and schools to talk about pressing political issues and hopes those who are eligible, get out and rock the vote this Oct. 19.