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Who can blame the unengaged

Quick. Name the two city councillors who represent your area. OK, name one. Still no luck? How about naming anyone on city council? You can name the mayor? Good on you.

Quick. Name the two city councillors who represent your area. OK, name one. Still no luck? How about naming anyone on city council? You can name the mayor? Good on you.

If you can name your councillors, I think I can make some assumptions about you. One is that you probably pay taxes on a home. People who see a city tax bill each year are much more likely to have an interest in the goings-on at city hall.

The second assumption is that you may have had a problem either caused by or fixable by the city. That would encourage you to find out who represents you.

The third would be that you belong to an organization that depends on the support of the city for its continued existence.

The fourth assumption is that you’re probably one of the paltry 26.8 per cent of Edmontonians who actually voted in the last election.

This week, city council held a meeting on whether or not to create 12 wards with a single councillor. Apparently, only three people showed up for the meeting. The fact it was held when most Edmontonians were at work might have had something to do with that. On the other hand, maybe Edmontonians just don’t care.

Voter turnout in our civic elections has always been low. In past years it has averaged about 39 per cent. The 26.8 per cent turnout in the last election clearly shows how unengaged Edmontonians are in civic politics. And who can blame them? Our city council is hardly a font of creativity and innovation. Why would anyone want to get involved with a city that has no idea where it is going and why it must go there?

Maybe smaller wards would reduce voter apathy. Right now, wards have a population almost equal to that of the entire province of P.E.I. Some of them, like Ward 4, have populations at different ends of the economic and social spectra and very different needs and concerns. People in Glenora and those in the Boyle Street area are occupants of different universes and have quite different degrees of political clout. Smaller wards might change that.

Now if you think smaller wards are a good idea and that as the city grows we will need more councillors, abandon that notion. Council chambers can only accommodate 12 councillors. One more example of Edmonton’s exceptional long-range planning.

 
 
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