Calgarians will be heading to the polls to vote in the municipal election as soon as next week, but it hasn’t been top of mind for many voters.
Advance polls in the election begin on Oct. 4 and run until Oct. 10 at 37 locations across the city.
According to several voters who spoke with Global News on Monday, the federal election and recent developments in the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to a lack of attention for the municipal race.
“Just after the federal stuff that happened… I think it’s slipped to the back of my mind,” Zach White told Global News.
“I think we’ll definitely vote but it hasn’t been on our minds a whole lot,” Claire Duffy said.
There is plenty of information for voters to digest in the weeks leading up to the election.
There will be 27 names on the ballot in the mayoral race, and 100 people running for city council across the city’s 14 wards.
Ward 10, with no incumbent running, has the most candidates in the running with 11; the fewest number of candidates running is in Ward 13, where incumbent Dianne Colley-Urquhart is seeking another term.
According to a ThinkHQ poll released last week, only five mayoral candidates have polled above one per cent: Jyoti Gondek, Jeromy Farkas, Jeff Davison, Jan Damery and Brad Field.
The same poll also showed 28 per cent of respondents were undecided.
There are many names and platforms to research, said voter Josh Gavrailov.
“I probably should’ve been more inquisitive and find out more stuff, but I don’t know anything about them,” he said.
Pollster and political commentator Janet Brown said the lack of voter engagement so close to the vote is a surprise, but she is hesitant to describe local voters as apathetic.
“I do think people care, but at the same time, I think people are overwhelmed and they find it very difficult to get the information they need to make a decision on the municipal election,” Brown said.
“There’s been so much else going on, so much else for people to focus on, including the federal election and the pandemic.”
Calgary’s city council is set to go through one of the biggest changes it has seen since the city moved to a 14-ward system.
Only five incumbent councillors are seeking re-election and three others are vying for the mayor’s chair following Naheed Nenshi’s announcement that he would not be seeking a fourth term.
The unprecedented turnover has the potential for at least seven new faces in council chambers following October’s vote.
“With incredibly important decisions on economic recovery, property taxes, infrastructure spending, climate change and reconciliation, this is undoubtedly a highly significant election in Calgary’s history,” community advocate and policy expert Jason Ribeiro said.
“So what we’re hoping to see is that voter engagement matches the seriousness of those issues come Oct. 18.”
According to Ribeiro, incumbents typically have an advantage in elections with name recognition, relationships and fundraising.
Ribeiro noted the proximity of municipal government in Calgarians’ day-to-day lives, from water and electricity to roads and community services like libraries, police, firefighters and transit.
“It’s a very clear path to send a signal when you’re happy, when you’re scared, when you’re upset,” Ribeiro said.
“To be able to write your local councillor or go down the street to their office and meet with them is a privilege that we don’t enjoy sometimes at the provincial order of government, where folks are often in Edmonton or in the House of Commons.”
Besides voting for mayor, councillors and school board trustees, Calgarians will also be asked several questions on other issues through referendums.
Voters will be asked if the City of Calgary should reintroduce fluoride into the city’s drinking water.
There will also be a referendum on equalization, a question on whether the province should end daylight saving time and elections for the next representatives from Alberta to sit in the Senate.
With three weeks left to make a decision, Ribeiro said voters should find a meaningful issue to them and see how it aligns within candidates’ platforms.
“I don’t know if we’ve seen a campaign to date that has truly captured the spirit or momentum of what Calgary’s future could be,” Ribeiro said.
“Now that can certainly change, and I think that’s why the next few weeks will be the right time for folks to start tuning in.”