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Candidate calls obscure Metro election a 'farce'

A UBC professor is vying for Director in an election few people know is even taking place.

“It's a real head-scratcher,” laughed Charles Menzies, a professor of Anthropology running against four candidates in Metro Vancouver Electoral Area A. “People look at me quizzically when I tell them about the race.”

For the benefit of the head-scratchers, the electoral area is a seemingly haphazard collection of everything that’s not in another district.

It includes the University of British Columbia campus and endowment lands, Bowyer, Passage and Barnston islands and a large chunk of unincorporated land north of Metro Vancouver.

Though Electoral Area A is one of the biggest in the province, almost all of its roughly 11,000 residents reside on the western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula.

In theory, the residents of several UBC-area neighbourhoods and the area’s outlying regions will carefully choose a director on Nov. 15 to serve on Metro Vancouver’s executive board.

But Menzies said so few people know about the election boundaries – let alone the race itself – that voter turnout is laughably low. He estimated less than 600 residents voted in the last election.

“A lot of people who’ve lived here five to six years are surprised when they hear about the position [of Director],” Menzies said. “And that’s just terrible.”

What’s at stake, he explained, is the proper functioning of a democracy in an area with overcrowded elementary schools and zoning issues on UBC lands.

Metro Vancouver election officer Paulette Vetleson said there’s no voter’s list for the electoral area at the moment. “It’s a small election,” she conceded.

But Vetleson said Metro Vancouver will be placing ads in the Vancouver Sun and the Ubyssey to alert residents of the upcoming vote. An extensive mail-out with voter information will follow shortly after, she added.

Despite the challenges, Menzies predicted a “historic” turnout of up to 1,000 voters this year thanks to an unusually high number of candidates.

So how does he feel about trying to campaign for an unknown position located within some of the province’s most obscure election boundaries?

“You couldn’t write a better farce,” he laughed.

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for The Hook.

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