Despite a well-organized campaign by the Voice party to convince voters New Westminster needs profound change, the resounding public response has been a polite, “No thank you.” Unofficial election results show only one new face on council: 12th Street booster, longtime Douglas College Student Union leader, Save St. Mary’s Hospital organizer and antipoverty activist Jaimie McEvoy, who appears to have stolen the seat of our longest-serving councillor, Calvin Donnelly . Donnelly has been a city councillor for 18 years, since first elected in 1981 (according to the city website’s official bio … I assume he has not been in office the whole time or else it would be 27 years, no?).
It’s the same story on school board, despite the vocal outcry over plans to situate a new school in Grimston Park, six of the seven school trustees are incumbents – and the seventh is former city councillor Casey Cook . There is a slight touch of drama here: Wright-endorsed newcomer Vivian Garcia was so narrowly edged out by incumbent Brent Atkinson (sorry, can’t find a link for his bio) that there will be a recount to confirm the tally.
And the final confirmation that New Westminster voters are pretty happy with the way things are? The response to the referendum question on whether council terms should be extended from three years to four was YES . That one’s a bit of a puzzler though – civic elections throughout the province occur every three years on the third Saturday in November . The referendum question is explicitly non-binding. Are we really going to put ourselves out of sync with every other municipality in the province and move to a four-year election cycle? I don’t know about you, but the first I heard that this question was on the table was when I had my Sharpie in hand at the polling station. It’s a surprise to me that we’re even considering the question.
The story of the night for me is just how poor a job the news media did of reporting election results from municipalities other than Vancouver and Surrey. Of all the TV stations, CBC included, only Shaw Cable (!) had special election coverage. Other stations just had superficial updates during commercial breaks. Online, the story wasn’t much better. The only site that did it well was the official City of Vancouver site, which reported faster results than any of the media sites (and, of course, didn’t cover New West!).
New West results were not online at all (except as reported by us, repeating Shaw Cable’s coverage). Because Shaw wasn’t online, and their numbers went by so fast, we actually snapped photos of our TV screen in order to capture local information for this blog. We were monitoring the Vancouver Sun, CBC, the Georgia Straight, 24 Hours, the Record and the Newsleader and it pains me to say that we were the first to report New West results online. The Record wasn’t too far behind in reporting the first results after all poll results had come in. The Newsleader had nothing until the results were complete. The big media organizations had nothing at all for New West.
The very best coverage was on Twitter. Big Media’s overstretched staffers couldn’t beat the efforts of dozens of passionate political junkies scouring the Internet for information on the election and sharing the dribs and drabs of info as it came in. CBC’s best move came in asking the Twitter community to tag election-related Tweets with the code #civicelection2008, which allowed for easy, consolidated tracking of most of the related commentary.
To me, all this is more evidence that the rest of the Lower Mainland considers New Westminster insignificant, and that is something I hope to change somewhat through my efforts online. I’d love to see more people blogging and Tweeting and Facebooking the New Westminster perspective and trumpeting our city’s successes so that the rest of the Lower Mainland might see that New West is more than what they view through the windshield trundling along Stewardson.
For those of you who didn’t choose to vote, you lose all right to complain for the next three (maybe four!) years. If you felt your taxes were too high, crime too bad, arts undersupported, parks lacking or schools crowded, you had your chance to effect change. Suck it up, buttercups.
The final election results will be posted on the City of New Westminster’s website on Nov. 19 after 4 p.m.