Here Come the Municipal Elections!

I can’t resist. I have to start writing about the CBRM municipal election — beginning with the way the CBRM is providing information about said election to voters.

If you go to the CBRM website — which looks like it was designed BEFORE they invented the internet — you’ll be greeted by this:

CBRM Home Page

 

Did you find it? “Election 2020?” You just go to “Online Services,” right one square to “Garbage and Recycling,” then down three squares and Bingo! We’re having an election in just over a month!

At this point I asked myself, “Is the CBRM better or worse at this than Nova Scotia’s other 50 municipalities?” And to answer that question, I did something I have never done before — I embarked on a virtual tour of Nova Scotia, visiting the websites of each and every municipality in search of election information. It took far less time than an actual tour of Nova Scotia, but involved less food. (My road trips always involve french fries and chocolate milkshakes. Don’t judge me.)

Here’s what I found out.

 

Election? What election?

Turns out, as low-key as the CBRM’s approach is, it’s actually better than that of the towns of Port Hawkesbury, Westville and Mulgrave, which have the distinction of being the only municipalities in the province that do not, as of Wednesday, September 2, contain any mention of their upcoming elections — not on their home pages and not, as far as I can tell, anywhere else on their sites. (Like, not even under “Upcoming Events” or “News”), although Mulgrave does have a “Coyote Notice,” which seems to merit special mention.

All other municipalities mention the elections although they are not all equally invested in reminding citizens to exercise their franchise.

Some, for example, have election information tucked away on their websites, but with no obvious link to it from their home pages. This category includes the Town of Lockeport (under “Public Info: Notices“), the Town of Lunenburg (under “Municipal Government: Elections”) and the Municipality of the District of Windsor/West Hants (information under “Government: Elections“).

The Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s has a good 2020 Municipal Elections page, in the “Government” section of its home page menu, but if you try to access it by clicking the “Government” slide on the home page, you get this message:

Bad karma: we can’t find that page! You asked for https://www.saint-marys.ca/government, but despite our computers looking very hard, we could not find it. What happened?

(I’m probably too sensitive, but I found that oddly accusatory — “What happened?” as in, “What did you do to mess up our website?”)

The Town of Berwick offers election information but you have to dig through three layers of the website to find it: “Town Hall: Mayor and Council: 2020 Election Information.”

And even within this category, some municipalities provide more information than others — if you follow the links above, for example, you’ll notice that Lunenburg has a rather comprehensive information page while Lockporte has (so far) posted only about the revision of the electors list and the opening of nominations and Windsor/West Hants seems to have posted only information about the elections to the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial (CSAP), which are taking place simultaneously with the municipal elections.

 

Oh, by the way…

Other municipalities include links to municipal election information on their home pages — but not exactly prominently.

Consider the website of the Municipality of the County of Inverness, which is visually pleasing, but more interested in reminding residents about the protocols surrounding visits to Kenloch Transfer Station (i.e. the dump) than the upcoming elections:

Municipality of the County of Inverness Home Page

 

The Municipality of the County of Kings has a link, right under the slide show on its home page, to “2020 Municipal Election Information” but I was more struck, I have to admit, by a notice about Dog Strangling Vine that begins, “No, this vine doesn’t actually strangle dogs…”

The Town of Wolfville doesn’t feature the elections particularly prominently on its website, but makes up for it with custom graphics on the information page:

Wolfiville votes information

The Municipality of the District of Barrington has a modest but reasonably prominent link to its election information on its website, although it’s lost in the shadow of its home page slide show. (Did you know Barrington was the “Lobster Capital of Canada?” because I honestly didn’t — which shows why it’s good to get out and travel around, even virtually).

I could go on, but I won’t, because most municipalities in the province (including Halifax) fall into this category with their election messaging and I think you have the idea by now.

 

We’re having an election!

This category includes municipalities that place election information or links to election information in prominent locations on their websites, like Kentville, which has a nice, custom graphic on its home page:

Kentville Votes logo

 

Even the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, has a not-uncool icon for election information on its home page (although the icon for “Notice of Hydrant Flushing,” is cooler):

New Glasgow has a link to its 2020 Municipal Elections section front and center on its home page, and the Municipality of the District of Clare not only includes a lot of information about the election on its home page, it does so in French and English.

 

VOTE!

My idea of good election messaging is the virtual equivalent of grabbing residents by the lapels and screaming “VOTE!” or “RUN!” at them, and it turns out that’s a view actually shared by some NS municipalities and — coincidentally? I think not — they are also the municipalities with the best websites.

Pay a virtual visit to Antigonish these days and you are greeted by this:

Antigonish Home Page

Go to the Region of Queens Municipality and the election is prominently noted on the home page (no scrolling necessary), same for the Municipality of the District of Argyle where election information is front and center in both French and English. (Argyle, I also have to note, has a great splash page.)

East Hants has incorporated election messaging into its home page slide show as have Bridgewater and the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg:

District of Lunenburg Home Page

 

But the winner, hands down, for election messaging is the Town of Yarmouth — which also has, in my opinion, the best website in the province. Here’s what greets you when you arrive, virtually, in Yarmouth:

Yarmouth Home Page

 

 

That’s the first slide in the home page show, but look at the second slide:

Yarmouth home page

Yarmouth doesn’t just want people to vote, it wants them to run. I’ve complimented the Town on its communications before — it does a much better job posting mayor and councilor expenses than the CBRM does — but having perused its website more thoroughly, I realize Yarmouth is in another realm communications-wise. It has a “language” section where you can choose between English, French, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish, an admittedly random selection of languages, but still, anyone comparing the two websites would be convinced Yarmouth, not the CBRM, was the province’s Number 2 municipality.

The CBRM tries to make a virtue of its website’s lack of flair, actually stating on the home page:

Simple and straightforward — Find the information you’re looking for quickly and easily. Welcome to the CBRM website.

But I’m not buying it.

If the internet were a party, Yarmouth would be the life of it — dressed to the nines, speaking multiple languages, swinging from the chandeliers — while the CBRM would be the guest who forgot about it until the last minute and showed up in sweats.

 

Home again, home again

That said, the CBRM website does offer comprehensive information about the 2020 municipal elections on its website, it just doesn’t make a big fuss about it. Nominations close on September 8 and voting, which will be by phone or online, begins at 8:00 am on Wednesday, October 7 and will run “24 hours a day” until the close of the polls on Election Day (Saturday, October 17) at 7:00 pm.

If you need help, you can vote in the Returning Office at the Civic Centre from October 7 to October 16, between 8:30 am and 7:00 pm.

Or, on election day, you can go to a Voter Help Centre from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm (you are asked to bring your voter information letter with you):

  • Centre 200 – Main Concourse:
    481 George Street, Sydney
  • Miners Forum (former BayPlex) – Community Room:
    151 Lower Water Street, Glace Bay
  • North Sydney Fireman’s Club:
    14 Pierce Street, North Sydney

So…VOTE! RUN!

 

 

 

 

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