Elections Regina hope competition, easy voting will bring more people to the polls than 2016

·6 min read

Regina has to do a quick shift to the municipal election after the provincial election, and that has Elections Regina concerned.

Advance voting starts in the Queen City on November 2, only a week after the Oct. 26 provincial election.

"The concern about voter fatigue has been constant with us, and we raised that through the Ministry of Government Relations when we were asked — city clerks were asked — to comment on the proposal to have the elections two weeks apart," said city clerk Jim Nicol.

"Just in terms of getting workers, having sites available for polling stations and voter fatigue."

Nicol said people can be overwhelmed by the information from the provincial election, a possible federal election that was recently avoided and the United States presidential election. As a result, Nicol said Elections Regina has tried to distinguish itself with specific colours.

"We hope that it reminds people that this is something different. This is not a continuation of the provincial election on October 26," Nicol said.

Turnout is always a concern, Nicol said, especially after only about 20 per cent of people came out to vote in 2016. However, he said he's encouraged by the amount of people interested in mail-in ballots. Nicol said he thinks the sheer number of people running may also bring more voters out to the polls.

Kirk Fraser/CBC
Kirk Fraser/CBC

"When you have competitive races, which we do in all but one of our wards, it speaks to the fact that the public is engaged and they seem to be paying attention and they want information and they want to participate," Nicol said. "And that typically has a positive effect on voter turnout."

As well, the mayoral race can impact turnout. With nine candidates in the 2020 race, he said he hopes more people will turn out.

If people are self-isolating because of COVID-19, Nicol said they should call the Elections Regina office and they'll make arrangements to get them a ballot.

Mayoral candidates concerned about election turnaround

Jim Elliott is one of nine people running for mayor of Regina. He said the lower turnout at the provincial election was surprising, but not at the same time because of COVID-19 fatigue.

"We've been kind of staying in for so long and it's hard to get out of that mode of living and actually get out and participate and get engaged in the community," Elliott said.

Elliott hopes there's enough time between the elections for people to switch gears and said people have been engaged, even during the provincial campaign. Elliott said he's been fielding calls from people all month with questions about him and his campaign.

Submitted by Jim Elliott
Submitted by Jim Elliott

"With the fact that it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Saskatchewan Party would get back in again, I think that that probably pushed the numbers down," Elliott said.

"The fact that you have essentially nine choices of pathways, I think that gives at least those that are pushing for change to both inspire but also encourage voters to get out more," he said.

Mayoral candidate Tony Fiacco said it's important to remember that voter fatigue is there.

"Do you want to be on the doorstep after two days after the [provincial] campaign?" Fiacco said. "Come on, people. Let's respect the citizens of Regina and the citizens of Saskatchewan."

Masters focusing on aquatic centre, Fiacco on REAL deficit

Mayoral candidates are also continuing their push to capture votes in the city. On Oct. 28, Sandra Masters held an event where she highlighted her plan for a new aquatic facility to replace the aging Lawson Centre.

"Today, I'm making a commitment to the planning, financing, construction, commissioning and opening of a new leisure and competitive aquatic centre to serve all the residents of Regina by 2024, early 2025," Masters said.

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

Masters said it would be paid for in a funding model sharing money between the provincial, federal and municipal government with part of it funded through private investment. Masters said even with the pandemic, over the next five years is the time to plan and build.

"Today is the most cost effective time to build, and we must act fast. Job creation and sustainability of the local construction market through a challenging economy, cost of borrowing at an all time low, and we have the ability to stretch a dollar," Masters said. "The time, in my opinion, is now."

She said as well, swimming lessons being full at the Lawson Aquatic Centre is an issue, as is air quality in the facility. She said the Lawson facility would most likely be decommissioned after the new one was built.

Tony Fiacco held a media event the following day on Oct. 29 highlighting issues at the Real Exhibition Association Limited. REAL runs Evraz Place and events at Mosaic Stadium.

"We have had some of the most amazing experiences our city can offer, and we've had some of the most amazing conferences and sports facilities anywhere in Canada," Fiacco said. "It is part of the city's key infrastructure assets and it is at the heart of Regina's hospitality industry."

Kirk Fraser/CBC
Kirk Fraser/CBC

As a result of the pandemic, REAL previously told CBC Saskatchewan it projects an estimated $7 million deficit in 2020. Fiacco said the building is old and needs upkeep and REAL cannot afford maintenance anymore.

"REAL has few options. It can only charge so much for a beer or popcorn or parking. Meanwhile, the City of Regina has made no headway that we can see towards solving REAL's short term cash crunch or long term maintenance deficit," Fiacco said.

He said he wants to see funding raised to the association and an investment in current buildings, instead of new buildings as proposed by Masters and a new arena downtown proposed by candidate Jerry Flegel.

Elections Regina makes a personal plea for people to vote

Nicol is suggesting anyone considering skipping the election think about the freedom they have to participate in the democratic process.

"Voting is a responsibility and I would hope that most people would see it that way," Nicol said.

"It's very easy to criticize on the outside, but you really have to get some skin in the game. You know, everybody's an armchair quarterback, but the only way you're ever going to make a difference is to participate," he said. "And everyone has that right."

Nicol said they have taken great energy to make voting as easy as possible for residents as well.

"The city government, we have about hundreds of millions of dollars budget every year. We touch people's lives every day, whether it's from community service, parks, police, fire services, building permits," he said. "And people should have some pride in being part of that democratic process."