With some projecting record-low turnouts to vote in the Oct. 20 civic election, a Downtown Eastside community centre is focusing on an obscure part of the ballot in a campaign to get out the vote.
Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre is trying to mobilize the community by drawing attention to one of three yes/no questions about the city’s capital plan. Ray-Cam, which opened in 1976, is one of the community facilities slated for “replacement, renewal, or refurbishment” in ballot question number three.
The plans for Ray-Cam include rebuilding and expanding the community centre and building 200 units of supportive, social and affordable housing. BC housing has committed “in principle” to provide financing and construction.
Fifty-one per cent of the electorate must vote yes on capital plan borrowing questions to give the city the go ahead to borrow money to complete infrastructure, maintenance and building projects across the city.
Irwin Oostindie, one of the people coordinating the campaign, is aware that ballot measures like the one about renewing Ray Cam are almost never defeated. He says focusing on the city’s role in moving the community centre renewal plan forward is one way to draw attention to how the decisions of municipal government can affect a neighbourhood and the lives of people in it.
According to Oostindie, neighbourhood turnout is historically less than 40 per cent. They want to increase it to 60 per cent.
There is an east-west divide when it comes to voter turnout in Vancouver.
In 2014, overall voter turnout was 43.4 per cent. East side neighbourhoods averaged lower than this, at 41.4 per cent. West side neighbourhoods averaged 48.4 per cent.
Oostindie also said that part of the strategy to increase was a series of events called East Van Votes. These events, held at several east side community centres, were a conscious attempt to engage voters by summoning “eastside pride.”