Monday, November 17, 2014

Military Monday: Civic duty

So this weekend heralded the municipal elections in the province of BC. In Canada, these elections fall under the jurisdiction of the province, and the rules are therefore provincially oriented. Depending on the province, cities and towns vote on a predetermined day every 2,3 or 4 years.

One of the neat things about our current post is the connection we have with the local community. The local mayors are very active in wing/base activities, and the wing supports the community in every way it can. It's a win-win situation that provides huge benefits, and the civilian mayors and councillors are often well known by the military residents.

In my case, for the first time since I left my hometown almost 30 years ago, I actually knew several of the candidates on the ballot--people I've met through different social events and gatherings. I was looking forward to voting for the simple fact that I could finally take my civic duty seriously, and vote for the candidate I truly believed deserved the position. I also have some strong opinions about the school system here, and had researched the school trustee candidates carefully.

When we arrived and registered at the polling station...I proudly marched in beside my husband, British Columbia ID in hand, explaining to my teens how important it was to vote, how it was our duty to make our mark on the local government...

And then I was turned away.

I was not allowed to vote.

Why? Because provincial rules dictate that I have to have lived in the province for 6 months to be eligible to vote here.

I won't lie, I was a bit miffed. Okay, a lot miffed. Other new residents--residents who have lived within the town boundaries for 30 days--were eligible to vote merely because they had come from somewhere else in BC. Whereas I, who actually had an opinion about the candidates and what they stood for, could not.

The nice people at the voting station double checked, just to be sure, and were very helpful, but I left without filling out a ballot, placing my "I VOTED TODAY!" sticker in the trash on the way out.

Instead of proving a point to my teens, I had to explain to them how my vote was not eligible--not allowed.

How is this right?

This rule basically disqualifies all military members and their spouses and adult children posted in or out of the province this summer. That's at least 3 families on my street. Dozens of families on the base. And the same would be true for any base, anywhere in the province. That's a lot of people prevented from carrying out their civic responsibilities, merely because they are military. A significant percentage of the local population.

And with the constant flux of postings (moving every three years), some people will never meet the provincial requirements.

Obviously this is a rule that needs some careful re-consideration if municipalities with Canadian military constituents are to have true representative governments. Military families may not be 'from here' but we are Canadians with the same rights and freedoms as our new neighbours. Although there are other ways to make our opinions heard, the ballot box is one of the best.

Hopefully next time I'll actually be able to make my mark, and will walk away with my "I VOTED" sticker proudly worn on my chest. Hopefully next time, I'll be able to show my kids how proud I am in my local community by carrying out my civic duty to vote.

Because I am proud. I love it here. I'll just have to find other ways to make my mark.



  1. I have voted in ONE municipal election in 23 years as a military spouse. We have never had a move within a province so we have never been eligible to vote. I've only voted in 2 provincial elections (both in Quebec). I have voted in every federal election but must work to get my name on the voters' list almost every single time.

    Things in our day-to-day lives (garbage collection, green spaces, park equipment, zoning etc) are managed by municipal governments and for the most part, military families don't have a vote. It is very frustrating.


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