Candidates fear low voter turnout for UBC

Two candidates for regional office have slammed Metro Vancouver for failing to inform UBC students and other residents of the vast Electoral Area A that there’s an election going on. Green party activist Ben West and education advocate Charles Menzies both told the Straight that extremely low voter turnout in former elections is related to shoddy communications.

“We have no real, effective government,” Menzies, who is a UBC associate professor of anthropology, said. “The population here is slated to double in a decade, so we need real representation.”

Menzies noted that almost 300 elementary and high-school students leave the area each day, because the population has boomed with no additional schools. That’s why, he said, he’s been fighting for the past nine years for the university peninsula to become a municipality.

In the 2005 election, just 421 people voted, out of 10,150 ballots printed. At UBC’s Student Union Building, just 59 people voted, according to the official election results. That’s out of a student voting population of more than 3,000.

West promises he will also push for a new municipality to be established at UBC, possibly called Pacific Spirit. He thinks the new municipality would have the ability to function as a model city, given the brainpower at UBC and the experimentation at the UBC Farm. “There’s some brilliant people on campus, but we’re seeing the antithesis of smart growth,” West said.

Metro Vancouver’s chief election officer Chris Plagnol told the Straight his office is only required to inform voters by buying ads in newspapers. This year, however, he said he’s sent out mail to homeowners and e-mails to renters, as well as posting more than 300 notices in UBC student housing.

“We can always do more,” he said.

To vote, UBC residents must be Canadian citizens, must have lived in B.C. for at least six months and in Electoral Area A for at least 30 days. They cannot be voting anywhere else.