If there is one individual who will benefit most from the upcoming Chilliwack school board byelection, it will be the person who wins.
That may seem obvious. But here’s the real reason why:
Whoever wins the byelection stands a good chance of winning the general election a year later. Being an incumbent has significant advantages. People who vote, tend to vote for the people they know. A byelection win will give Chilliwack’s newest school trustee a chance to develop a familiarity with the public prior to the school board elections next fall.
That’s why, despite the little excitement this byelelection will likely generate, it is important.
Some, including the current board, doubt the need for a byelection (necessitated by a decision by Louise Piper to step down for health reasons). The board had asked the minister of education to allow it to continue with only six trustees until the next general election, which must be held in November of 2014.
Citing the School Act, the minister said the government had no choice.
As a result, the Chilliwack School District will undertake a byelection this November which will likely cost it around $50,000.
Some may argue that that money could be better spent elsewhere. But that argument is moot.
Instead, we must focus on getting value for our money.
That will involve two things. The first is ensuring there is an adequate number of candidates to provide a credible campaign. (Just two elections ago it was uncertain if more than seven people could be found to run for the seven trustee positions.)
The second is ensuring people actually vote. Municipal elections tend to draw poorly – school board elections even more so.
It will be interesting to see how many Chilliwack voters take the time to cast their vote when there is only one position to be decided on the ballot.
Hopefully they will recognize that their vote will play a significant role, not only determining the composition of the school board for the coming year, but also who will have the advantage in 2014.