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Elections and Civic Engagement


As the 2010 civic elections in Calgary gather steam, we face an interesting challenge: a year with one of the largest number of candidates for office at all levels, yet the prospect of voter turnout remaining (at best) somewhat static. Although the city faces many future challenges as it struggles to find its footing as a member of the fairly exclusive “million plus” club — there are only about 500 cities world-wide in that category — there is a very real possibility that the 2010 election will be decided by roughly 3.5 or fewer voters out of every 10 eligible.

Calgary is not particularly unique in Canada or North America in this low level of civic engagement, but it speaks poorly of our broader societal attitude toward leadership at the moment, and the resulting voter apathy. At least at the electorate level, since there actually is a great deal of interest in terms of people vying for public office. There are now a full baker’s dozen (13!) candidates running for mayor, and we haven’t even reached the formal nomination day of September 20, by which time there could be even more.

How to compare and decide?

One of the challenges being voiced by many in the general electorate — meaning those who are not considered “hyper-engaged voters” — is how to make an informed choice between candidates, whether those running for mayor, alderman, or school board trustee. We thought we’d try to help a bit by profiling a few of the resources available in Calgary to build up such an informed perspective. This focuses primarily on relevant online resources, but we note that many of these also blend into public forums that also need to be widely publicized. Chances are, there is a group set to host an all candidates meeting in your local area, and we highly encourage people to take the time to have a first-hand look at their options.

(click on the images to access the resource)

City of Calgary elections website

Of course, this is the authoritative source on where to vote come election day — October 18th, if you haven’t already marked your calendar! — and what information you need to establish your identity at the polls.

A multi-year project involving TEDxCalgary 2010 speaker Grant Neufeld, the site attempts to aggregate information across issues and candidates, including by ward. It’s an ambitious and complex project, but you can find links to the sites of each candidate running in a given ward, plus those running for mayor. Right now, one of the most valuable aspects of the site is the video channel profiling interviews and statements by the mayoral candidates (second image).

Calgary Herald Election 2010 Site

As usual, the Calgary Herald is providing ongoing election coverage, both with regular stories in the print edition and a special election section on the website.

Political Calgary blog

A frequent commentator on recent announcements, this local political blog presents a range of additional stories and resources on the election, including some great links to the initiatives of Civic Camp — such as upcoming candidate forums and reviews of various campaign platforms.

DJ Kelly

Many in the TEDxCalgary community will be aware of DJ Kelly, whose site contains a number of relevant stories, particularly in terms of the way the 2010 election is focusing on the use of new social media tools by the candidates as part of their broader strategies.

Calgary Beacon

Last but not least is the Calgary Beacon, a local online daily “newspaper”. They have extensive coverage of the 2010 election issues and profiles of various candidates, and also are one of the frequent online commentators around various election themes and personalities.

Social Media Links and Tools

There are too many related social media sites to mention by name, but it’s an obvious bet that Twitter is buzzing with commentary, announcements, and political sniping between camps. At the moment, the main Twitter hashtag for the election seems to be #yycvote (it, too, was democratically elected by the engaged social media crowd), so be sure to check out the range of ideas being presented via micro-blogging.

Pretty much every candidate also has a Facebook page, so it’s a good idea to select those you want to follow in your own profile. There’s currently a bit of a Facebook arms race in progress, as this is being viewed as a measure of relevant engagement and support by each candidate. Alas, this doesn’t necessarily discriminate between those (like us) who might be watching more than one candidate’s feed.

Also consider keeping track of various candidates by RSS feed. Although Twitter and Facebook capture the more dynamic content being put out there, there’s still a valid role to be played by the venerable RSS feed, which can pick up on more subtle changes on a candidate’s main site. Use either a stand-alone RSS reader program, or the one built into most common browser types.

And, if you’re an iPhone or iPad user, there’s even at least one related application out there! The campaign of TEDxCalgary 2010 speaker Naheed Nenshi has released the first-ever iPhone app for a Calgary election campaign, and it remains pretty unique for municipal elections anywhere across Canada.

Talk back!

We’re interested in what you think about these issues, or if you have other suggestions for us to profile. Use the comments field to send us your thoughts!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 2010.08.20 15:23

    Excellent article! Small error under Social Media Links & Tools – #yycvotes should be #yycvote

    • 2010.08.25 17:25

      Many thanks for the correction, and the feedback! We have corrected the article.

  2. 2010.08.20 16:31

    Not #yycvotes …. #yycVOTE …. no s at the end

    Gr8 post!

    • 2010.08.25 17:24

      Many thanks for the feedback, and the correction. We have updated the blog post!

  3. 2010.09.04 22:14

    Thanks for discussing my blog. Appreciate it.

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