Here’s why civic elections matter

Click to play video: 'Edmonton mother speaks out about importance of municipal election'
Edmonton mother speaks out about importance of municipal election
WATCH ABOVE: Municipal elections often suffer from a lack of voter interest. But an Edmonton mother is speaking out about why she thinks there's good reason to show a keen interest in what happens in October's election. Kim Smith reports – Sep 20, 2017

You can’t name your current school board trustee. You’ve never heard of most of the people running for council in your ward. But come Oct. 16, the winners of those municipal election races will be responsible for billions of your tax dollars, deciding issues affecting your day-to-day lives.

“The focus that we’ve got is at the federal level and the provincial level,” political scientist Duane Bratt said.

“But if you think about zoning, if you think about garbage pickup, if you think about who’s plowing your streets, those are municipal issues, and those matter.”

Bratt said civic politics is where day-to-day decisions are made and residents need to take an interest.

“Think what happens if there’s a couple hours delay or days delay on snow removal. Think about what happens if there’s a garbage strike. Think what happens if a business opens up in a residential area,” said Bratt, a professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

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Edmonton city councillors have an annual operating budget of more than $2.5 billion to maintain services, programs and infrastructure. They also have a $4.3-billion capital budget.

The budget for the Edmonton Public School Board is more than $1 billion and the budget for the Edmonton Catholic School Board is about $500 million.

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“These are very large budgets. They’re dealing with large sums of money. So yes, you need experienced knowledgeable professionals dealing with that,” Bratt said.

READ MORE: How to engage Edmontonians this civic election

Greta Gerstner is a mom of two kids with learning disabilities and is speaking out about the importance of knowing the candidates this Edmonton municipal election.

“Before I had a child with a learning disability, I honestly did the same as they did. I went by name recognition or signs on a lawn,” Gerstner said.

The Edmonton mom said her 10-year-old daughter is falling behind in school and is not getting the support that she needs.

“She’s functioning in class at a Grade 1 level. She’s in Grade 5.”

Gerstner said she’s looking for answers but has been frustrated with a lack of communication with her school board trustee.

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“There has been no communication. I phone. I leave messages. I email,” Gerstner said. “I’m fed up.”

READ MORE: Record number of candidates file nomination papers for Edmonton’s 2017 municipal election

Longtime politician and retiring Edmonton Public School Board trustee Ray Martin said Edmontonians need to be informed about the candidates.

“Both the school board trustees and the councillors make very, very important decisions,” Martin said. “You’re the grassroots, right at that level that people are dealing with. They’re (residents) are mad about the roads. They’re going to complain to councillors.”

Martin spent 15 years as an elected member of the legislature and the past seven years as a school trustee.

“When you’re dealing with the amount of money we’re dealing with, it’s taxpayers’ money, they (voters) should be interested,” Martin said.

Watch below: How much interest is there in Edmonton election 2017? Former councillor Jim Taylor weighs in

Click to play video: 'How much interest is there in Edmonton election 2017? Former councillor weighs in'
How much interest is there in Edmonton election 2017? Former councillor weighs in

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