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The forgotten election

Star-studded media coverage is dominated by Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, unless Canadian media are feeling generous

Dan Leger doesn’t mince words. The school board elections? “Roadkill,” he says. The director of news content---editor to the rest of us---at the Halifax Herald makes no apologies, either. “We’re a business,” he says. There simply isn’t room to provide the kind of coverage of school board campaigns that could help voters decide who would best represent them.The three dozen candidates running for nine school board seats are competing for media and public attention with Stephen Harper, Stephane Dion, Peter Kelly, Sheila Fougere, dozens of municipal council hopefuls, each other and, of course, Barack Obama and John McCain. Not to forget Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.School board elections coincide with municipal elections partly to save money and partly in the mostly wishful hope that a two-for ballot might goose increasingly abysmal voter turnout. If voters go to the polls to cast a ballot for the next mayor, the reasoning goes, they might also take the time to put a checkmark next to one of their local school board candidates.Not that they will necessarily know anything about that person or what they stand for.David Finlayson, whose Bedford district includes 42,000 residents, says he’s been busily doing his door-knocking, hockey-rink visiting best to talk to everyone, but it is an impossible task, made more impossible by the reality that people contributing to a municipal candidate’s campaign can’t claim the donation as a tax write-off.And campaigning is expensive. “Fifteen hundred to print a brochure,” explains David Bentley, “$3,000 to mail it... .”Even if the brochure makes it into voters’ mailboxes, there’s no guarantee they’ll even see it among all the other glossy come-ons.“It’s just bad luck that all happening at once,” says Dan Leger.It is.

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