Only 31 per cent of Courtenay citizens voted in the 2008 municipal election, according to the Comox Valley Citizen Voice Project Society.
The non-profit organization is working hard to bring that number up in November’s election by conducting a survey campaign throughout the Valley.
Citizen Voice Project (CVP) co-ordinators Susan MacVittie and Dan Vie shared their work with Courtenay council Monday.
About two years ago, the Columbia Institute in Vancouver, which had a program called Citizens Matter, contacted the CVP, and with their help, the CVP carried out a survey campaign between December 2010 and APril 2011, collecting 600 surveys from Valley residents, explained Vie.
This fall, CVP hired two organizers — MacVittie and Vie — and, using the the Nov. 19 elections as an incentive, is conducting another survey campaign and is hoping to get another 1,400 surveys filled out, Vie told council.
“The purpose of the surveys is twofold,” he said. “One, is to find out what the priorities are in the community, and, two, to raise awareness about the election and the issues. That is why our preferred method of doing the surveys is face-to-face, as our canvassers can have a conversation with each person. It is not surprising many people who take the survey are enthusiastic about it, because someone is asking, ‘What is important to you?'”
The survey questions are broad, and Vie told council this is because CVP is using a values-based community organizing model, as opposed to an issues-based one.
Another part of the survey asks citizens how they feel their council or regional district board is doing around the identified values.
Another part of the campaign is a Council Report Card.
“A report card is simply a record of how individual councillors voted on particular motions, which we can then correlate to the values we have tallied from the surveys,” said Vie. “This gives citizens objective information about how a councillor voted around a particular value. Often, during elections, memories can be fuzzy, and this report card will lend clarity to the process.”
Emphasizing the low voter turnout in the last election, MacVittie told council there are many reasons why people do not vote, such as working longer hours, feeling marginalized by the rest of society and seeing no benefit to participating, giving up and not knowing how to be involved.
“There are undoubtedly more reasons, but one we at Citizen Voice Project do not accept is apathy.”
Coun. Murray Presley felt the survey was missing questions about economic development, job creation, infrastructure, cost effectiveness and accountability.
“I think you need to add more to get away from what I see is a very left-wing bias,” he said. “If you don’t put it in, I don’t think it’s credible.”
To learn more about Comox Valley Citizen Voice Project or take the survey, visit www.citizenvoiceproject.ca.