An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
POSTPONING THE REFERENDUM on a new performing arts centre is the only logical thing to do.
At this writing, the City of Kamloops is taking a serious look at that in view of COVID-19.
Mayor Ken Christian said Monday the City is in discussions with the Province about options for the vote that was scheduled for April 4. Theoretically, it could be done by a mail-in ballot, or by limiting the number of voters at each polling station throughout the voting day.
But putting it off till a later date is the responsible and smart thing.
Other than concerns about contributing to the spread of the virus, there’s another, very practical reason. COVID-19 is bound to suppress voter turnout no matter what voting iteration is used. It probably isn’t going to be very high, anyway; in the 2015 referendum, only 32 per cent showed up to vote.
I’d be surprised if more than 10 to 15 per cent of eligible voters take part, in view of the virus. The result would be that a very small minority would make this important decision on a potential $45-million borrowing, and that’s not good.
It’s especially bleak if you support the project, because traditionally voters who oppose something are more likely to go to the polls than those who support it. In other words, an extremely low turnout makes the chances of approval even less than under normal circumstances, and that’s very bad news for the “yes” side.
It’s a decision that shouldn’t have taken so long, but procrastination seems to be standard practice when it comes to fighting COVID-19. Putting off this referendum until at least September would give everybody a better chance to study the pros and cons, and result in a fairer outcome.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.