Tag Archives: engagement

Boosting engagement and participation by making voting more accessible

Saanich gets creative to woo more voters in fall election

July 16, 2014

large-election

The District of Saanich will be rolling out more options to increase voter turnout in November’s municipal election.

Council voted this week to reinstate mobile voting stations, which had been replaced by mail-in ballots in 2011. Both options will now be available in the fall, said Mayor Frank Leonard.

“[Staff] found that we had good results with the mail-in ballot, but where there had been better turnout with the mobile poll, it wasn’t there with the mail-in ballot,” Leonard said. “That’s why they’re going to do both.”

University of Victoria students and staff will also be able to vote on campus, thanks to a new advanced polling station.

“The campus draws students from all over the region, which makes municipal voting a bit complicated,” said Coun. Dean Murdock. “Victoria and Oak Bay are also going to have voting opportunities at UVic, so between the three municipalities, we will be able to help people find their home for voting.”

Students will need to identify themselves along with their address in order to vote, Murdock said.

“But unlike provincial or federal, you’re not restricted to a particular voting location.”

Murdock said Saanich wants to make voting as accessible as possible to its residents.

“If we can encourage people to get engaged and interested, and make it easy for them to cast a ballot, I think it’s important to do that,” he said.

Along those lines, Murdock said council also asked staff to look into putting voting stations at popular public places such as shopping centres and recreation centres.

“If it’s something Saanich can do to make [voting] more convenient, that’s always something we want to see go forward,” he said.

The municipal election takes place Nov. 15.

andrea.anthony@vicnews.com

Politicians explore the power and pitfalls of social media

Social media shifting rules for local politicians
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Frank Leonard wants to be your friend.

The Saanich mayor – and many of his council colleagues – regularly use politically motivated tweets and Facebook wall posts to make their opinions known to their followers. The most lively issue of late? Light rail transit.

Leonard and Coun. Dean Murdock have been debating the issue with one another, along with public input, on Facebook.

Leonard recently told the News he is hesitant to openly support a $950-million plan for regional light-rail because he wants to know whether taxpayers favour the tax increase needed to foot a portion of the bill.

Murdock, a staunch supporter of public transit, commented on Facebook saying, “Mayor Leonard would prefer we had the lump of coal that is traffic congestion.”

Leonard responded with, “I see my young colleague has mocked me … It is unfortunate that to point out that a major expenditure will cost more taxes is considered politically incorrect.”

Coun. Judy Brownoff, also on Facebook, commented (without naming names): “Typical of ‘old time politicians’ … society has changed and future planning politicians know about taxes and we know how to manage projects like this! Old time politics 101 scare taxpayers before you know what the increase will be.”

Councillors Paul Gerrard, Vicki Sanders and Susan Brice are also on Facebook, along with many of their Victoria and Oak Bay counterparts.

Janni Aragon, senior instructor of political science at the University of Victoria and an active social media user, says politicians need to have a web presence on social media but must balance personal opinion with professionalism.

“We all get braver and bolder behind our keyboard, our monitor, and forget about the repercussions of the things we post or we tweet,” she said. “As their political selves … it’s a way for them to connect with people.”

Leonard says he uses Facebook tool as an alternative dialogue, though he’s quickly realizing there are downsides to having an open forum.

“It’s not a private conversation. You have to be aware of what you put on there. It’s an open conversation and it’s there forever,” he said. “You always, whether it’s at the grocery store or the coffee shop, get feedback. This is simply a virtual way of having that same conversation, but you reach a whole lot more people at once and it’s all out in the open.”

Murdock agrees. He says he’s glad this back-and-forth on light rail happened on Facebook because it allows for more public input that will ultimately lend to a more “informed debate” if it comes before council.

“The council agenda is fairly rigid. We don’t have an opportunity to open up a conversation with the public or with other councillors, so Facebook is a great way to throw something out there and get feedback,” he said.

“And we often hear from people (online) who wouldn’t necessarily come out to a council meeting or who may not come out to a community event.”

But disagreement among political colleagues on Facebook is no different than disagreement in council chambers, Murdock said.

“That’s exactly what the process is all about. It’s healthy to have these kinds of debates,” he said. “It benefits the overall discussion on a complex and controversial issue like LRT.”

Aragon says politicians who use social media as a forum for discussion – which is what is currently happening – must understand the proper way to use it to their advantage.

“You can’t think of it as new media … it’s media,” she said. “And it’s about being social media savvy.

“But (politicians) also are out in the public. They don’t have the same sort of privacy as most people. There can be repercussions for something that’s said online – there are lots of people who aren’t cognizant of that.”

Connected Communities Workshop – May 14th

Workshop aims to connect Saanich community groups
Natalie North, Saanich News

The Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee wants to strengthen ties and boot membership of community groups, while equipping organizations with the the practical skills to make it all happen. That’s the thrust behind the Connected Communities Workshop, a free event aimed at supporting Workshop aims to connect Saanich community groups

Saanich associations and non-profit groups of all kinds.

“It’s a lively discussion about how to engage with community and how to build on your existing membership,” said Dean Murdock, committee chair.

“It’s a key priority for Saanich, too,” Murdock said. “Reaching out to community and finding new ways to engage with residents is something that’s in the Saanich strategic plan.”

Guest speakers include Christina Peacock (food security and poverty issues), Lisa Helps (micro lending and reducing local poverty) and Saanich Youth Council (roundtable, youth engagement). Talks will move beyond the theoretical to share specific ideas with community groups, including, for example, use of social networking.

“The highlight for the morning will be breaking into smaller groups where those representatives from each organization can share what their organization does.”

Murdock’s goal is to see participants create an engagement action plan, based on the morning’s discussions.

“It’s not about inspiring the reps… it’s about sharing best practises to give some fresh ideas and hopefully breathe some life into associations that are really struggling for members.”

The Connected Communities Workshop includes complimentary coffee and runs from 9 a.m. to noon, May 14 at Royal Oak middle school, 4564 West Saanich Rd. All interested community members are welcome, room permitting. Contact 250-475-5412 or diane.andiel@saanich.ca to register.