Oct. 18, 2021 is election day for many municipalities in Alberta.
While residents head to the polls to vote for their local governments, they will also cast ballots for two referendums and in the province’s Senate nomination vote — effectively combining several ballots on public issues and politics into one day.
This conglomeration of votes is worrying for Adam North Peigan, a member of the Piikani First Nation, whose community isn’t holding a municipal election at the same time as the rest of the province.
“Because the First Nations communities in the province of Alberta are not municipalities, a lot of us won’t be going into the city of Lethbridge, Pincher Creek, Fort Macleod, wherever — the surrounding communities — to exercise our right to vote.
“We are deeply concerned. When the news broke, I was very appalled.”
Elections Alberta and the ministry of Municipal Affairs confirmed this means they’ll have to travel to a nearby municipality or vote by mail to participate.
“Not every community hosts an election this fall; summer villages, improvement districts, special areas, First Nations, and the Alberta side of the City of Lloydminster do not have municipal elections this October,” Minister of Municipal Affairs spokesperson Mark Jacka told Global News.
“To ensure easily accessible voting information as well as easy access to voting opportunities, partnering communities will provide First Nations residents with election notification and the information required to cast their ballots.”
The referenda will ask about the elimination of equalization payments from the Constitution, as well as whether or not Albertans wish to continue with Daylight Saving Time clock changes.
As well, electors will vote to select three Senate candidates, whose names will be put forward by the province to the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada for filling future vacancies related to Alberta in the Senate of Canada.
North Peigan isn’t satisfied with having to travel to vote, and believes the province should take steps to ensure all residents have equal access to the ballots.
“The minister responsible for the referendums in the province of Alberta should have a duty to ensure that those First Nations that are going to be affected, have the opportunity to vote within our own communities.
“More attention needs to be drawn to it.”
Dr. Sunil Sookram, an independent senate candidate in Alberta, is also worried about what this will mean for voter turnout.
“If you look at people that might have mobility issues, such as people with disabilities or elders, having to travel a long distance to vote and exercise your Constitution rights is tragic, honestly,” he said.
“This election and the opportunity to vote is being hindered for a certain population, (that’s) unfortunate, and that’s contrary to what we want in democracy.”
North Peigan and Sookram encourage residents of the affected communities to write the province with their concerns, and participate in mail-in voting if it’s their only option.