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Small vote numbers mean big steps for new MLA

I would have thought more people would have voted. With a not-so-new MLA, how do we move forward?

I thought more people would have voted. 

After an MLA seat for the Fort-McMurray-Lac La Biche riding was left vacant last summer with the sudden departure of former UCP MLA Laila Goodridge, the voting population in the riding had an opportunity to vote for a successor. As it turns out, the leading candidate... and eventual winner... is also looking towards a loftier title. Our MLA could be the next premier of the province. 

So why was the vote so low?

Former Wildrose leader and UCP candidate Brian Jean won the seat with a resounding majority of the popular vote in the March 15 by-election ... it’s just that the urge to vote wasn't that popular

During the by-election, only 23 per cent of the eligible voting population hit the polls, compared to the 58 per cent of voters who utilized their duty to vote for a representative during the 2019 general provincial election. So while 60 per cent of the vote in an election with eight candidates is definitely a good number, 60 per cent of 23 per cent brings down that ‘Wow factor’ just a bit. 

Shouldn’t more people have voted for the person who wants to be the next premier? Why didn’t more people care or show up for their civic duty? 

It’s true that many of us have had other things on our minds ... health, economy, winter, new seasons of Better Call Saul and Outlander ... But a couple of those big reasons are actually influenced, or strongly connected, by politics.  

Was it voter burnout? Too many trips to the ballot box over the last 18 months with a federal election, municipal elections, referendums —and now a provincial representative?  

Worse yet, could it be apathy? Do voters just not care? Do you know who should care about such low numbers? Brian Jean. 

I think the sheer amount of people who didn’t show up, who didn’t vote for him should send a clear message. There is a lot of work he needs to do ... for everyone. 

It’s easy to say that people didn’t vote because they were confident he’d win. By the same token, it’s easy to say they didn’t vote because they didn’t want to vote for him. Both are easy to say because both are hard to prove.  

And right now — as the world around us spins with rumours and opinions — proof is essential.  

I think the people in the constituency are looking for answers and factual solutions. Brian Jean has proven in the past that he is a generous representative. He’s going to have to prove it again to his constituents — those who voted, and the many who didn’t. And, he just might have to prove it to all Albertans because even though the by-election that brought him back to the provincial stage didn’t draw voters, the UCP leadership vote that can propel him to the province's top political job is said to have a record-breaking voter turnout. 

About the Author: Rahma Dalmar

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