Sam Van Schie: Online voting latest fundraising trend

I’ve been feeling some voter fatigue lately, and it’s not the fault of any government elections.
It’s daily voting online that has me exhausted.

I’ve been feeling some voter fatigue lately, and it’s not the fault of any government elections.

It’s daily voting online that has me exhausted.

Lately it seems everyone wants me to scan a QR code or click a URL to help them win something. It’s hard not to take a few seconds to vote for the local band trying to boost their music career with a win in the Peak Performance Project, or pass up my duty to vote for a friend’s entry in a photo or video contest.

Many of these competitions ask you to come back and vote every day during a set period of time and sometimes there’s a big chunk of money on the line.

Take the Aviva Insurance sponsorship challenge, for example. For the past three years the company has put up $1 million in prize money to be split between the four most popular community projects. Right now more than 1,000 individuals and groups across Canada are pleading for votes through their online networks.

Among them is the family of murdered Langford teen Kimberly Proctor, who would use the funding to get Kids in the Know safety education added to the curriculum of high-risk B.C. schools (Idea No. 11490), and the Tsartlip First Nation in Brentwood Bay, which would put it towards building a recreation club on their reserve (Idea No. 11910).

I’ve also been voting for Aviva to fund a skatepark in Nelson, B.C. and a youth climate change conference in Ottawa.

And Aviva is not the only private company running this type of contest. This fall West Shore Parks and Recreation tried to win $100,000 for an accessible playground by getting votes on a Facebook page set up by meat company Schneiders.

I don’t blame groups for looking for new funding sources. There’s never enough public funding to go around, and applying for grants can be a frustrating process.

It often seems unfair when governments award funding to one infrastructure project over another – such as when the feds made the McTavish Road interchange a stimulus project, but ignored fixing the traffic snarl on the Trans-Canada Highway at McKenzie Avenue. Or that the shrinking student population at Oak Bay High receives a new school ahead of Belmont High, which is bursting at the seams on the booming West Shore.

Government watchdogs are always calling for more transparency in the decision-making process and are quick to call foul when, all too often, it appears funding has gone unfairly into a cabinet minister’s riding.

At the very least, online vote contests offer an alternative to politically driven funding decisions. Some might even call it direct democracy, making decisions by open vote.

(Though the businesses sponsoring the challenges probably just call it cheap publicity, since the charitable donations they make can be written off on their taxes.)

Whatever you call it, the money can do a lot of good for a community and this compels me to keep voting for the projects I want to see happen.

But I’m glad at a government level there’s somebody else reading applications and choosing whom to write a cheque to – as unfair as it might seem at the time. It’s got to be tough to know funding one thing means denying many other worthy projects.

The number of entrants competing for money online shows just how many great ideas are on the table. Each of them comes from people trying to make their communities better.

I hope my votes, even if they don’t result in a funding win, let the organizers know they have people who want to see them succeed.

Sam Van Schie is a reporter with the Goldstream News Gazette.

news@goldstreamgazette.com

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