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Kamloops politicians perplexed by low voter turnout

The poor turnout of 29.01 per cent came despite the fact this year the city offered more polling stations, advance voting days and mail-in options
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Mayoral candidate Ray Dhaliwal chats with supporters during his election night gathering on Oct. 15 at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre in Aberdeen. Dhaliwal finished last in the five-person race, but has vowed to again run for mayor in 2026.

Mayoral candidates Ray Dhaliwal and Sadie Hunter were disappointed with the low voter turnout in the Oct. 15 civic election, which came in at 29.01 per cent — the lowest this century.

“Kamloops didn’t come out to vote, that’s for sure,” Dhaliwal said.

Hunter cited apathy.

“I talked to a lot of people who seemed to feel their vote didn’t matter, or what was the point — that kind of response — and I think the turnout reflected that sentiment,” Hunter said.

She said she doesn’t feel the election results in Kamloops are a fair representation of the views of all Kamloopsians, given that less than a third of eligible voters cast ballots.

Hunter said people who felt disenfranchised have a voice, but for whatever reason didn’t choose to exercise it through their vote. She feels change is needed, be that with incentives or perhaps mandatory voting, as is done in Australia.

The poor results come despite the fact this year the municipality offered more polling stations, advance voting days and expanded mail-in options for everyone.

Hunter said in instances of voter apathy, it is important to get out the vote; otherwise, she argued, results are skewed and don’t represent a fair representation of the entire community.

Hunter also noted it was a positive sign that four women were elected to council and will comprise a 50/50 split with the four male councillors.

Of the 23 councillor candidates, only seven (30 per cent) were women, but almost two-thirds (57 per cent) were elected.

Asked if she plans to return in four years to run for council or mayor, Hunter said “anything can happen in four years. I have many irons in the fire, so we’ll see where it takes me.”

Hunter, who ran as the NDP’s Kamloops-North Thompson candidate in the 2020 provincial election, said she does not intend to run again for the provincial seat in 2024.

“Nope. Not at this time. I’ve done four campaigns in five years, so right now what I’m thinking about is resting and spending time with my family,” she said.

Dhaliwal said he “still has lots to give to this community” and intends to return in four years to again run for mayor.

“Four years, definitely, I’ll be back,” he said.

Former Kamloops mayor Terry Lake, who backed Dudy, called voter turnout “pathetic.”

“But I think people are worn out. They’re worn out by everything. They’re worn out by COVID. They’re worn out by the war in Ukraine. They’re worn out by inflation. They’re worn out by everything, so this is really not a surprise because everyone is just done,” Lake said.