Opinion: Every vote counts and so does love for the job

By the time this column is published, I will have already voted at advance polls for the Vancouver civic election. Here’s my voting plan.

I’m voting early. There aren’t many early polling stations in East Vancouver, so I’m heading to city hall itself to cast my vote. I received an invite from Aboriginal Rock the Vote, and

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I’m going to join them in a trip to city hall even if it will take me two buses to get there.

Having done my civic duty early, I plan to have a peaceful election day, parking my iPhone at home, steering clear of the Internet and television, and spending E-day celebrating non-election life with my partner.

This election I’m more engaged than any other election before. I understand more about how electoral politics works and I am glad to say that I’m proportionately opinionated about who I hope to see elected.

I understand some of the problems we have in our Vancouver electoral system. Without campaign spending limits, we’ll see more dollars spent on this election than even 2011’s bloated $5.3 million. As the only large city in Canada that has not moved to a ward system, we’ll likely continue to see some neighbourhoods and communities disadvantaged and underrepresented in our at-large system. With no chance to revamp our electoral system before Nov. 15, I’m doing what I can with the votes I have.

Even though I’ve been following the election closely and I’ve looked through the list of 119 candidates, I don’t feel I know enough about all the candidates to select 10 councillors, seven park board commissioners and nine school board trustees that I can vouch will represent Vancouver’s interests with the integrity and holistic lens necessary. I’m going to cast votes for the ones I can vouch for. That’s not going to max out my ballot but I’d rather, for example, plump a few city council candidates I feel good about than fill out the roster with maybes. Every vote I don’t give to a maybe is one less vote my preferred candidates need to make it across the line.

I’m thinking of each vote I give as an arrow.

Looking back at the last Vancouver election, the Green Party’s Adriane Carr won the 10th council spot with just 90 votes over COPE’s Ellen Woodsworth. Fewer than two hundred votes separated Woodsworth from the candidate in 12th spot. Every voter counts.

I’m also voting for diversity. Since dipping my own toe into electoral politics early this year, I’ve been advocating for new voices at the decision making table. I want to see Vancouver’s next government reflect our city’s diversity in gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity and income. This means looking at the kind of representation we’ve had and looking for candidates who embody the gaps.

We’ve never had an indigenous person on city council or park board. Several other significant communities, including Filipino-Canadians and Indo-Canadians, are not represented on council.

It isn’t that I feel candidates from underrepresented communities will serve just my interests; I’m trying to ask myself what will be best for all of Vancouver. I think diverse representation benefits us all, because when underrepresented communities finally see faces like theirs in positions of power, they are seeing validation that they belong here too.  

A sense of belonging is important. As the Vancouver Foundation revealed in its 2012 report on social isolation, feeling alone, even in a crowd, breeds mistrust, a hardening of attitudes towards one’s neighbours and even poor health.

And finally, I am voting for love. From the affluent luxury condo owners who could live anywhere in the world, to the front line workers who spend their days supporting the city’s hardest to house while they  barely hold on to their own basement suite apartment.

I hope we all live here because we love Vancouver. I have no votes for anyone who’s phoning it in. I want to vote for the people who clearly love this place too, who see public office as a way to dedicate themselves to the city they care about. I want to vote for the people who love what this city is, and speak passionately about how we can make it better.

I feel I’ve done my homework and I’ve made my picks. If you’re not there yet, you have until Nov. 15.

trishkellyc@gmail.com

twitter.com/trishkellyc/

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