October 20 is municipal election day. On this day, people will head to the polls to vote for their town mayor, school trustees, and members of their city council. Many people will only vote in Provincial or Federal elections, but it is very important to vote in municipal elections. A lot of decisions are made at the local level: decisions about local parks and facilities, local housing, taxes, and even decisions about the schools that we attend are made at the municipal level. Many of the issues that we hear people complain about on daily basis are decisions that are made at the local level, so it is very important to vote in municipal elections.

On October 20, Port Coquitlam will elect one mayor, six city councilors and two school trustees. Greg Moore, our current mayor, is not running for re-election. The mayor is the most important position in municipal elections; there are four mayoral candidates running this year.

PoCo’s current mayor, Greg Moore, center, and PoCo’s current members of city council

Some of the candidates are very experienced and very qualified for mayor, such as Brad West, who has spent 10 years on City Council and says that if elected, he will try to make Port Coquitlam an even better place to call home. Another candidate, Robin Smith, says if he is elected, he will lower salaries of school board workers, increase the fee for international students, make it so that only Canadian citizens can purchase homes in PoCo and increase tax on foreign property owners, all to lower taxes. Another candidate, Eric Hirvonen, ran in 2014, but failed. If elected, he will change the bylaw to have an exemption for water metering on residential water use. The final candidate, Patrick Alambets, has ran three other times for mayor, but failed. Alambets says that he shunned the City Council by not attending meetings and that his anger towards the city and its politicians have caused him to return. Many have said that Alambets’ temper makes him an unsuitable choice for mayor. Port Moody mayoral candidate, Rob Vagramov is also controversial; he posted a video where he made a homeless man chug beer for food. Many people have said that people who behave in such a manner should not waste the electorate’s time.

Another very important position in municipal elections are school trustees. School trustees help run the local school board and make decisions for the schools we attend. Many people complain about our school board, but people have the power to make changes in our school board by voting for the school trustees, so it is very important to vote for them. Two PoCo school trustees will be elected on October 20. There are six candidates running this year.

Some candidates running for school trustees are very experienced, such as Michael Thomas, who has spent four years on the SD43 Board of Education and two years as the Vice Chair of the school board. If re-elected, Thomas promises to hire more teachers, eliminate annual teacher layoffs, improve Wi-Fi, and make schools safe and inclusive. He also wants to make seismic upgrades to schools, so that they are earthquake safe. One candidate, Melanie Young, has been a teacher in PoCo since 1986. She believes that we need to well-fund our schools and allow children to further their education to achieve their goals. Another candidate, Christine Pollock, has been an Education Assistant for over 30 years. She believes we must help education for specially-abled students and promote growth and advancement of learning. One candidate, Bruce Richardson, is not too experienced in education, but has worked as an electrical supervisor in SD43 for 23 years and has volunteer experience. He wants to work hard, make decisions that benefit all, and “put the ‘trust’ back in trustee.” Another candidate, Edward Ram, has previously been a District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) Vice-President and a PAC representative. He believes we need to improve funding for schools, increase money for technology and art/music programs, have more communication with parents, and increase funding so students are not in portables. Our final candidate, Andrea Howorth, has experience in the DPAC and has two children attending schools in the district. By voting for school trustees, people will have a say, as trustees make crucial decisions in the schools that children attend every day.

While anybody under the age of 18 is ineligible to vote, there are still many ways to get involved. For example, ask your parents of family members to go out and vote. While youth may be unable to vote, adults can vote. Studies show that votes count more than ever in municipal elections, as only about 33% of registered voters turned out to vote in the most recent municipal election, compared to the 68% of registered voters that turned out to vote in the most recent federal election. Port Coquitlam also has only about 50,000 eligible voters, so with a limited amount of people eligible to vote, one vote counts more than ever in municipal elections, as races are often won by 100 votes or less in municipal elections. There are also many different volunteer and job opportunities for youth to help with and get involved in the election. For example, youth can get a job organizing ballots or they can volunteer as a greeter by contacting Sharlie at 604-927-5229.

The importance of voting in municipal elections cannot be stressed enough. Even former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, realizes the importance of voting in municipal elections. “It’s not just important to vote for the president (prime minister), because a lot of stuff happens at the local level. So, you have to vote. You have to vote often, and you have to vote every election,” said Obama.

Many of the things that we hear people complain about daily are decisions that are made at the local level. One vote counts more than ever in municipal elections, so on October 20, get out and vote!