Forums encourage residents to vote

Nanaimo organizations are thinking outside the box to get voters to the polls.

In an attempt to encourage more involvement in the political process, a number of Nanaimo organizations are thinking outside the box to get voters to the polls for Saturday’s (Nov. 19) municipal election.

The South End Community Association compiled community input from a 2008 blog on neighbourhood concerns and posed the top three to this year’s candidates for mayor and council on an online forum.

The responses, posted at http://nanaimosouthendvotes.wordpress.com, allows voters to compare candidates’ views.

Not all candidates responded, but Ed Chan, association member, said the group is pleased with the responses they have received considering so many groups are creating their own forums this election.

“The south end is probably facing more transitions over the next decade than any other neighbourhood in Nanaimo,” said Chan in a press release. “We want to ensure that we elect representatives who understand what’s important to us, who will listen to us, and give us the support we need to manage the changes that we will be facing. In order to do that, we need to get out and vote.”

The  Young Professionals of Nanaimo is hoping to reverse the trend of low voter turnout among youth with a rallying call to the polls.

The group hoped to have many of its members vote at Wednesday’s advanced poll at Bowen Park and urges everyone to vote Saturday.

Leif Bogwald, YPN president, said youth engagement in politics is important, and with candidate information now available online, it helps cater to the younger demographics.

“Most people I know haven’t attended many of the all-candidates meetings, but are going online to get their information,” he said. “When you have 26 people running for council and mayor and 13 running for school trustees, it’s hard to make an impact on the voters when you have less than five minutes to speak at a meeting.”

Bogwald said YPN sees the importance of choosing someone who has a vision of what they want Nanaimo to become both in the short- and long-term.

“Research online, talk to friends and family, watch videos and do your homework,” he said.

The Coalition for Democratic Nanaimo hosted a forum Nov. 10 with candidates split into smaller groups and debating a single issue rather than fielding questions from the audience.

Issues were chosen from public submissions to the group’s bog – http://democraticnanaimo.blogspot.com.

More than 600 people attended the meeting at Beban Park and co-organizer Karen Hovestad said judging from public feedback, she believes the success of the meeting will translate into more people at the polls.

“The intent was to let the audience see how the candidates processed an issue, how they worked together, or didn’t work together,” she said. “We didn’t get as much interaction between candidates as we had anticipated, but a lot of people came up to us later and said they loved it. Our goal was to provide something different and inspire people to get out and vote.”

Voting stations are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. For more information, please go to www.nanaimo.ca.