EDITORIAL: Voters happy with council? Turnout didn’t show it

Turnout at polls continues trend of falling numbers in Nanaimo.

Much of this civic election campaign in Nanaimo was about a single issue – social housing.

For the people and neighbourhoods most immediately affected by the city and provincial plan to address homelessness and addiction, this election was an opportunity to vote for change.

In those neighbourhoods, voters did express their displeasure with their choices at the ballot box.

But across the city and across the electorate, that same appetite for change simply wasn’t there.

Voter apathy continues to worsen in the city, with barely one-in-four voters casting a ballot.

Of those who did vote, the choice was overwhelmingly to stay the course, with five incumbent councillors re-elected, as well as Mayor John Ruttan getting a ringing endorsement for a second term with more than 50 per cent of the mayoralty votes over three contenders.

There are three new faces at the table, with three councillors not seeking re-election. But even of those three, Diane Brennan is a returnee to council after one term away.

The debate over voter apathy, what it means and how to change the trend will continue, but one possible and perhaps obvious conclusion is that Nanaimo residents are happy with their government.

For all the noise and criticism from certain corners, whether it was about social housing or ever-increasing property taxes or city hall’s spending habits, none of it resonated with the voters.

Generally, low voter turnout is associated with disinterest in the issues and the election itself. If the issues are catching people’s attention and they are truly unhappy with the city’s leadership, they’d say so with their votes.

That simply did not happen.

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