In May’s federal election, nearly 70 per cent of eligible voters in the Victoria region voted – one of the highest turnouts in the country! In contrast, during the last municipal election only 17 per cent of eligible voters in Saanich (our largest municipality) got out to the polls.

Sadly, it’s not difficult to imagine why. With dozens of candidates and a lack of party platforms, municipal elections can be confusing and intimidating. But that doesn’t take away from their importance.

Many people (myself included, before I started working at Dogwood) don’t associate issues they care about with local politicians. But the reality is our mayors and councillors make key decisions about how we control our land and resources.

For example, our local leaders can have a huge impact on proposed expansion of oil tankers on the south coast. They can also determine if our communities will preserve farmland so that we can feed ourselves. Just like in the federal election, getting bold progressive leaders elected is the launching point to change.

That’s why Dogwood Initiative asked election candidates in Saanich to complete a values survey a couple weeks ago. We’ve posted them all to our website so you can see where your candidates stand on several of Dogwood’s core issues. (We chose to focus on Saanich because it’s one of the closest races in the region and is central to decision-making in the Capital Regional District.)

By providing this information, we hope to encourage more people to get to the polls on Nov. 19.

Here are a few tips to being more effective in this election:

1. Vote for who you like. Municipal elections are refreshing in that they are largely non-partisan. While there are a lot of choices on your ballot, you only need to vote for the councillors you know you like.  Instructions on your ballot will say something like “choose eight councillors”, but you don’t have to choose eight – you can choose one and it won’t spoil your ballot. If you use up all eight of your votes, you might inadvertently select a councilor you don’t like, nudging your preferred councillor out of the running. If you want to, you can just vote for mayor and leave the rest of the ballot blank.

2.  Do your homework. Find out which candidates share your values by looking at their endorsements, going to all candidates meetings or taking a peek at our election survey if you’re in Saanich.

3. In many communities, a few hundred votes can change the outcome of the election, so encouraging your friends, family or neighbours to get to the polls can make a huge difference.