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Montreal elections 2017: Combating voter apathy

Montreal elections 2017: Combating voter apathy
WATCH: Turnout for municipal elections is typically low, but as Global’s Amanda Jelowicki reports, Election Montreal is hoping an advertising blitz will help change that.

With just three weeks to go before Election Day, candidates are out in force on the campaign trail.

They’re making daily announcements and promises for a better Montreal, but despite all the work, a big question remains: Is anyone paying attention?

“I have no idea about the municipal elections, I am clueless,” said one Montrealer Global News spoke to.

“I think people don’t take it seriously, they think it just does not impact their lives,” another resident said.

Historically, municipal elections have low voter participation rates.

READ MORE: Flood prevention a top issue in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue

In 2013, only 43 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots. That compares to over 70 per cent for the last provincial and federal elections.

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Experts cite many reasons for voter apathy. Candidates have small budgets, and don’t spend much on advertising.

WATCH BELOW: This week on the campaign trail

Montreal elections 2017: This week in municipal politics
Montreal elections 2017: This week in municipal politics

And some people think municipal elections aren’t important.

“They think the issues are too small for them to take an interest in,” said McGill doctoral student Chris Erl, who studies municipal governments. “Sometimes it is garbage collection and sewer pipes and parks, and they think these are issues better dealt with by bureaucrats.”

Erl says the reality is municipal governments directly affect people daily, with issues like garbage collection, bike paths and public transit at the forefront.

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However, Erl argued that a lot more can be done to make voters care.

“It’s the city’s responsibilty to do a better job to reach out to people. It’s also the citizen’s responsibility to get engaged so they can participate at a much higher rate.”

The group Apathy is Boring is working hard this election to get young people out to vote. They actively use social media to engage people, but say politicians can do better.

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“You create a vicious cycle because people aren’t voting, candidates don’t want to spend as much energy on talking to those constituents, so we need to break that vicious cycle,” said Caro Loutfi, the executive director of Apathy is Boring.

WATCH BELOW: Montreal mayoral candidates

Election Montreal says it’s trying to reverse voter apathy. It is mounting a $500,000 advertising blitz next week, but admit it’s a challenge.

“People don’t realize they have the possibility to change things, and they don’t go to vote, and it’s pretty sad,” said Election Montreal spokesman Pierre Laporte.

Although the election date is Nov. 5, Election Montreal says it is trying to make it as easy as possible for people to cast ballots.

There’s an advance poll Oct. 29, but there will also be five other days when people can cast ballots at their local chief returning officer’s headquarters.