The voter apathy ringing from Saturday's byelection in the TNRD's Area O was deafening - of 1,300 eligible voters, only 245 bothered to cast their ballots.
Bill Kershaw, who beat former Barriere mayor Mike Fennel by a mere nine votes for the position of rural director, wasn't impressed.
"I'm not pleased with (the turnout). I think people should take a greater interest because that's about the only form of governance you have in the rural area other than your provincial and federal governments."
We agree. People love to complain after the fact that government doesn't do anything for them, yet they sit on their hands when they have an opportunity to have a say in who will represent their views. Those who live in Area O either feel what they have to say doesn't matter or simply don't care about who their voice to government is.
And that's a shame because the Thompson-Nicola Regional District handles a load of issues that affect people at the grassroots level.
For instance, Pritchard Hall recently got $40,000 in upgrades, including new insulation, siding, windows and fixtures. This was made possible after people let their regional director know about the need, he took their concerns to the board and staff found out if there were any grants available from higher levels of government to help pay for it. (As it turned out, the money came from the Federal Gas Tax Community Works Fund, from which the TNRD has gleaned $2.66 million for 64 projects.)
Got a problem with dangerous dogs in your rural neighbourhood? Mosquitoes eating you alive each spring? Unhappy with the hours the nearest landfill is open? Want a new library or water system to be built? These are all concerns the regional district handles for rural residents.
That's why it's difficult to understand why people wouldn't go out and vote for the person who can represent their views on issues that affect them at such a basic level.
Voter apathy is a problem much farther afield than Area O, but our point is, if regional districts, cities, provinces or countries want people to vote, they need to give them a reason why by engaging their interest.
Clearly the case wasn't made to residents during the Area O byelection campaign; something for governments to think about in the next election.
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