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Vancouver business offers free sandwiches to byelection voters

To combat historically low voter turnout, previous provincial election candidate offering free grilled cheese sandwiches

Grilled cheese sandwiches will be given to Vancouverites who vote in the byelection on Oct. 14. Photo by Jessica Herbold
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Reported by Jake Wray

A Vancouver business owner hopes to boost participation in the Oct. 14 municipal byelection by offering free sandwiches to voters.

Denise Brennan, owner of the Creative Coworkers work studio in Railtown, said she is hosting an election night party — which is open to the public and advertised on Facebook — and will make a grilled cheese sandwich for “anyone who voted.”

“I don’t necessarily think democracy is a great thing, but it’s what we’ve got, so not engaging in it changes nothing,” said Brennan, who ran in the 2005 provincial election as a candidate with The Work Less Party of B.C. “For me, the important thing is not who you vote for. The important thing is that you participate, so I encourage people to go.”

The byelection was triggered July 4 when Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs resigned his seat to become Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff. While the campaign for the byelection has been intense—nine candidates are vying for the open seat—voter turnout is generally low for municipal byelections. The previous municipal byelection, in 1992, only saw 10 per cent of voters participate.

Langara students not engaged in municipal politics

Jesse Adams  Communication student at Langara College

Jesse Adams, a 20-year-old Vancouver resident and a communications student at Langara College, said he was aware of the upcoming byelection. He said he doesn’t intend to vote because he has “absolutely no engagement whatsoever,” in municipal politics.

“[Municipal politics are] not popular. You never hear about it at all,” he said. “Honestly, politics is a joke nowadays, especially in Canada. No one is involved.”

The Voice interviewed four Langara College students who are Vancouver residents, none of whom said they will vote in the byelection.

Most of the students said they can’t vote because they are not Canadian citizens, including Kenda Kobayashi, who is from Japan.

“What is [a byelection]?” he asked.

It’s unclear how many sandwiches Brennan will need to make. But, she said, she plans to buy “loaves of bread and a couple bricks of cheese.” At least 30 people indicated on Facebook they are interested in the event.

“It just totally depends on how engaged people are in the byelection,” she said.

Voter turnout for municipal elections historically low

Terri Evans, an instructor of political science at Langara College, said regular Vancouver municipal elections get approximately 30 per cent voter turnout, although the 2014 race saw 43 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.

Byelections and plebiscites see turnouts of 10 to 20 per cent.

“Vancouver hasn’t had over 50 per cent voter turnout since the 1930s, so that says something about the longer-term health of our democracy at a local level,” Evans said.

She said her students at Langara College show little interest in elections, with some saying in class that they don’t vote.

“There’s a sense of disillusionment with the political system,” she said.

Brennan said she also made sandwiches for voters on May 9, the night of the provincial election, and for observers of the American presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016.

Brennan said her grilled-cheese initiative was inspired by Byron Dauncey, a Vancouverite who runs a similar sandwich-for-voters campaign through his website, iwillmakeyouasandwich.com.

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