Increasing Thunder Bay Voter Turnout
THUNDER BAY – News – “It is generally accepted that Aboriginal people don’t vote in municipal elections, but there is no facts to back that up,” stated Thunder Bay City Clerk John Hannam. The Office of the City Clerk is responsible for running the civic election in Thunder.
“Youth are another demographic who do not vote,” continued Hannam. Youth vote in civic elections at about a twenty per cent rate.
The general population votes at an average rate of fifty-one per cent.
“The average voter turnout in municipal elections in Ontario is about 35 per cent.
“We have been ramping up our efforts in the last two elections,” said Hannam. “We certainly do not talk about who to vote for, or what the issues are”.
“As we move forward to try to convince people to vote, we do not touch on the political side, it would draw into question our integrity.”
The process of reaching out is logistical. The City Clerk’s office works back to the January 2nd opening date for the nomination. Leading up to Election Day on Monday October 27, 2014.
A candidate for ward councillor must also have her or her residence in the ward in which they wish to represent.
Young people moving into the community have the right to vote. This applies to students coming to Thunder Bay to attend school. Living in the community is all that is required to vote in the community.
“Our elected bodies reflect the community”.
There is a women in politics effort ongoing, Women in Politics seeks to raise the number of women in politics.
Lakehead University Seeks Input
Lakehead University Professor Robert Robson, from the Department of Aboriginal Learning presented to the audience.
“We are trying to get a more welcoming environment here in Thunder Bay,” shared Robson.
As a group through the Aboriginal Learning department the goal is encouraging people to make informed decisions.
There are problems at the community level and there is not a single issue that impacts Aboriginal voting.
Aboriginal voter turnout ranges from a low of 17 per cent to a high of 70 per cent.
Socio-economic variable such as poverty, mobility educational attainment are some of the factors impacting Aboriginal voter turnout.
“There has been a loss of community and community identity,” Robson shared. “That impacts participation in the process”.
Ken Cyrette, from Fort William First Nation, a Lakehead University third year Political Science student addressed the forum.
“I was, initially sceptical. I did not see a lack of Aboriginal voting or not voting as an issue. I am an Aboriginal nationalist. From my participation allows me to operate within the dominant paradigm, and come up with some options to present to the city”.
Cyrette commented on the system of federalism in Belgium. “In Belgium, the constituent groups are linguistic. If this could be done in Thunder Bay as a part of a municipal election it would set aside seats of council for Aboriginal people”.
Lisa Harris, a student intern and graduate student at Lakehead University shared she is studying Aboriginal Learning Centres around the world. Harris is also leading a new program at Lakehead – Aboriginal Mentorship. The goal is getting students a mentor in the sciences. They are encouraging young First Nations students to stay involved in sciences in high school and on into university.
Harris shared about using digital means can reach out to Aboriginal voters and youth.
For more information visit www.thunderbay.ca