Navigating the ballot for the 2021 General Election

On October 18 you’re not only voting for the city’s next mayor, council, and school board trustees; but also several additional issues that will change the course for our city.

By Krista Sylvester | October 13, 2021 |9:51 pm

There will be many important questions on this year's municipal election ballot other than voting for mayor and council. One of the most important will be the referendum on if you support Alberta adopting Daylight Saving Time (DST) year-round.

Photo: Calgary Citizen

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about this year’s election ballots, you’re not alone. 

Either you’ve already marked your X on the ballots in advanced voting or you’ve heard about the somewhat complicated ballots from those who have. 

It can be daunting, especially with the backdrop of the fourth wave of the pandemic. 

That’s normal, says political scientist Lori Williams. 

“There’s (a lot going on right now). And I think that that is overwhelming for some people there,” she says, adding there are a lot of issues up for debate on these municipal ballots. 

“We’ve got the Senate election, the (Daylight Saving Time) referendum. There’s a lot of complexity that might actually overwhelm many people.”

She also says the school board races are more important this time around, because of the controversial curriculum, but that’s not the only issue that needs extra attention.

It’s important that you review your school board candidates and know if they align with your views on the UCP’s controversial draft curriculum. (We dove into this issue in a previous newsletter if you are looking for more information.) 

This is all a recipe for confusion and anxiety; that’s why we’ve put together this primer to help you narrow down the issues and what your vote means on these three ballot questions.

THE ISSUE: Daylight saving time referendum explained  

“Do you want Alberta to adopt year-round Daylight Saving Time, which is summer hours, eliminating the need to change our clocks twice a year?”

If you’re against the bi-annual time change, your first reaction might be to vote YES on this question — but it’s important to know what that means.

If you vote YES — it means you’re in support of Alberta converting to Daylight Saving Time (DST) year-round. This means Calgary will get later sunsets, but also later sunrises. In the winter, the sun wouldn’t rise until approximately 9:37 a.m, while the sun would set around 5:42 p.m.

If you vote NO — it means you’re in support of keeping the time change twice a year. The fall behind and spring forward routine. 

It’s important to note that as this is a referendum, the results of this ballot question are binding. You can find more information here.

THE ISSUE: The Fluoride debate explained

“Are you in favour of reintroducing fluoridation of the municipal water supply?”

It’s easy to miss this question on the ballot, so make sure you do a double-check your answers so that you get to have your say on this highly debated issue. This is the seventh time Calgary will be voting on this issue, most recently approving fluoridation in 1989 and then voting to keep it again in 1998. In 2011, council voted to remove fluoride from the water supply. 

If you vote YES — it means you’re in support of adding fluoride back to the water.

If you vote NO — it means you’re in support of keeping Calgary’s water fluoride-free.

It’s important to note that as a plebiscite, the results from this question are not binding, but will be a way for council to gauge what Calgarians want going forward. You can find more information on both sides of this debate in one of our previous articles. 

THE ISSUE: Equalization payments explained

“Should Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982—Parliament and the government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making equalization payments — be removed from the Constitution?”

This is where it gets confusing. Equalization is not a municipal or provincial matter, it’s a federal matter contained in the Canadian constitution. In essence, this is a Premier Jason Kenney question, so the results of this ballot question are not only non-binding but essentially meaningless.

If you vote YES — it means you would support changes to the way the federal government makes equalization payments involving Alberta. For example, when oil was booming in Alberta and the economy was good, Alberta was helping support the other provinces with equalization payments. When Alberta’s economy is bad, the province is still making transfer payments.

If you vote NO — it means you are happy with the way things are.

It’s actually more complex than that and you can find more information from Elections Canada.  

The province says, if Albertans vote YES to this question, the Alberta government would approach the federal government to initiate such discussions. While this question is technically a referendum, it’s important to note that it’s unlikely the results would sway any changes to the Canadian Constitution. 

THE ISSUE: The Senate election explained

While this isn’t technically a plebiscite or referendum question, you’ll also be asked to nominate your preferred candidates for the Senate. This is another Kenney initiative as the premier wants to put names forward for the vacancy in the Senate for Alberta at the end of October for when Sen. Doug Black retires. However, there is no guarantee they will ever make it to the Senate.

What will you be asked to do on the ballot? 

You will be asked to nominate your three choices for Senate. It’s important to note the results are not binding, because we do not elect senators in Canada. If you haven’t been paying attention, you likely don’t even know who is running for senate, so here is more information. 

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Krista Sylvester

Reporter at Calgary Citizen

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