Edmonton’s recently announced tax hikes, and their disproportionate effect on apartment dwellers, provide an opportunity to strengthen the democratic process.
In the last provincial election only 41 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots. As you may recall, many people saw this as the end of democracy as we know it, and there was much speculation as to why that was the case.
On one side, there were those who said it indicated people were happy with things the way they were. On the opposite side, others said it was indicative of voters not believing that casting a ballot would make any difference in the way the province was run.
What then does a voter turnout of 26.8 per cent of eligible voters in the last civic election say about how we feel about our city and the likelihood of being able to create any real change?
The question becomes, what do we know about those people who actually voted? Though you would be unlikely to look at election results poll by poll, if you did, one thing would become readily apparent. Voter turnout is highest in areas with single family homes. Turnout is lowest in areas with a high proportion of renters.
This should come as no surprise. Home and condo owners receive a tax bill each year and are, therefore, much more likely to want a say in how their city is being run and how their tax dollars are being spent.
Apartment dwellers receive no such notice and are likely unaware of how much of their rent goes to paying civic taxes on the buildings in which they live.
I would think that it would be worthwhile for organizations such as the Edmonton Apartment Association to let tenants know how much indirect civic tax they are paying for the pleasure of renting.
Doing so would not only serve the needs of the landlord, it just might increase the turnout in civic elections.
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