A newly re-elected Kitimat-Stikine regional district director says the area needs to better tell its story and engage with residents to reverse extremely low turnouts at the polls.
Bruce Bidgood, who will once again represent Area C which is the larger rural area that excludes Thornhill and surrounds Terrace before extending south toward Kitimat, says he was surprised once again at how little people know about the regional district and its functions.
“I really think we need to do more,” said Bidgood whose area takes in nearly 20 distinct rural communities.
Official tallies have yet to be released as to voter turnout but Bidgood gathered 146 votes to 92 for challenger Gill McKean and 47 for a second challenger, Martin Holzbauer.
In 2018, Bidgood received 126 votes to 124 for Holzbauer.
“What was the turnout in 2018? Fourteen per cent? And that was way lower than the average 28 per cent for regional districts in B.C.”
Of the six rural seats on the regional district board, two were filled by acclamation in 2018 and three were filled by acclamation this time.
“I’d like to set up a committee, not a formal one but an ad hoc one that that looks at ways of increasing the knowledge of the regional district itself and how we can do elections better,” he said.
Bidgood said he was surprised to hear resident of First Nations villages tell him they were not even sure they could vote in regional district elections.
“I just know we can do a lot better,” he said of the results of a public information campaign.
Turning to specific items, Bidgood said he’ll pursue initiatives already underway to improve fire halls throughout the rural area and to bring in a dangerous animal bylaw.
Most importantly, he said he wants to ensure that money meant for Area C is actually spent in Area C.
“There’s money that comes to the regional district, federal money for instance from the gas tax. It’s divided up by population so it’s important that the money for Area C is spent in Area C — fire halls, water, etc.,” he said.
Newly-elected and re-elected regional district directors, as well as those who took seats by acclamation, will be sworn in at the Nov. 18 session of the regional district.
Directors assigned to the regional district by the five municipalities within the regional district area will also be sworn in. A chair will be chosen at that meeting as well.