Politicians and pundits frequently complain about low voter turnout in Canadian elections.
So how about making it easier on the poor voter?
All Manitoba communities are holding civic elections on Oct. 27. In 2006, the last Winnipeg civic general election, just over one-third of eligible voters went to the polls: a measly 38 per cent.
Winnipeg, home to about two-thirds of Manitobans, is divided into 15 wards. Every eligible citizen can vote for a city councillor in one ward, and all citizens can vote for mayor.
That’s where it gets complicated. What ward are you in?
The City of Winnipeg website invites you to find your ward and your poll location by entering your address. That’s fine. But what if you want to learn more about the ward, for example its boundaries?
The short answer is that there is no good place to do that.
The city offers several ward maps, but they lack the street names that would be familiar to most residents.
Some incumbent councillors provide maps of their wards, for example Jenny Gerbasi's of Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry. Their quality varies.
Complicating this search are the names of the wards. Many wards cover several neighbourhoods, so they sport hyphenated names such as River Heights-Fort Garry.
But wait! There’s more!
River Heights-Fort Garry includes the neighbourhood of Linden Woods (or Lindenwoods; there does not appear to be an official spelling).
Michael Kowalson, who is running against incumbent John Orlikow, has created his own name for the ward: River Heights-Fort Garry-Lindenwoods.
In an email exchange on Sept. 12, Kowalson told me,
I have chosen to include Linden Woods in my campaign material as many residents of Linden Woods are not aware they are part of the River Heights Ward. Most residents of Linden Woods do not think of themselves as living in River Heights or Fort Garry in the conventional sense.I believe that Linden Woods is a very distinct and important neighborhood within the city and should be recognized as such. There are many important issues facing the Linden Woods area (as is the case with all neighborhoods in the City) and I hope all residents will come out to vote on October 27th.
Kowalson’s triple-barrelled ward name may be more accurate than the official one, but it’s confusing. It looks as if he and Orlikow are running in different wards.
No wonder lots of citizens can’t be bothered to vote.