Political Grinch

I need to be clear that I am speaking on behalf of Jen Arbo, here, and not Tenth to the Fraser. Tenth to the Fraser does not endorse any particular candidate.

Most Tenth to the Fraser readers will recognize that I generally write about things like gardening, lifestyles, spa treatments, local businesses, and people who don’t shovel their sidewalk. I usually leave the politic-y stuff to Will and Briana because, well, I am definitely no expert. But with election fever at an all time high and me having cast my ballot at the advance poll yesterday afternoon, coupled with the highly successful All Candidates Meeting that took place two nights ago, I’m actually paying attention to this election.

When I was a teenager not yet of an age where I could vote, my parents would agree to huge lawn signs  – and not just the little plastic ones – the enormous wooden kind that took two people and – gasp! – tools to install. I remember being incredibly mortified, like any proper self-respecting teenage girl, but I will be darned if I can remember what party those signs were for although I think it may have been the now-forgotten Socred Party. Funny how memory works. It wasn’t until years later when my parents started referring to me as “their tree-hugger daughter” that I even considered myself to be from a decidedly different political generation. 

I have always disliked politics and the grandstanding that tends to go with it. I have always felt that politicians aren’t speaking to or for me, and that they just get paid to sit around and tinker with the rules I live by and regardless of who is in power, all the tinkering in the world means very little because in the end, I’m still not rich and I’m still paying taxes. What I do know is that I see ads and find my face scrunching up involuntarily like the Grinch. “Eeeewwwww…. politics?” I say. I think money spent to grease the wheels of the political campaign machine is money better spent on charitable, environmental, or social projects. Less advertising, more money where the mouth is. Whenever there is an election, I generally only stay interested long enough to find out: where do I vote?

Once I have those figured out, I tune out. Because I can’t stand the “he said, she said” backstabbing,  name-calling that I see in mail outs, TV ads, newspaper ads, blah blah blah. I get sick of the machine. 

 STV is one of the few issues I haven’t bothered to tune out this election, primarly because I didn’t understand it when the machine started to roll. I’ve paid a fair amount of attention to both the yes and the no side of the issue, and I feel the yes side has done a much better job explaining it to me, illustrating the pros and cons to both options on the ballot. I also greatly appreciate the fact that the referendum has been appended to the election itself – thus reducing the cost (that ultimately I am bearing as a taxpayer) of staffing and running a referendum without an election to piggyback it on.

So, who gets my vote if I’m not paying attention? I vote Green in every election because I know that no matter what the agenda du jour is, or what the hot button issues are, there is at least some platform of the Green Party that I support.  I know that there is at least one commonality between my personal beliefs and that of the party I am voting for. Besides, I love rooting for the underdog. I vote Green not because I think there is a snowball’s chance in H-E-double hockey sticks that the Green Party might actually win anything, but because I know that to me, the Green Party is the least of all evils.  It might not be the best way to select a candidate – sort of like the ostrich in the sand technique –  but it works for me. I believe there is no such thing as a wasted vote, if you put the effort in to actually go and do it.

The democratic process is one I think we take for granted – especially those of us who lack personal first hand memories of losing loved ones while defending democracy in foreign countries. With apathy and consumer-driven materialism seemingly more common, and voter turn out sinking lower and lower (although I caught a tidbit on the news ticker this morning that says advance polls are showing huge turnout already – is that because of the upcoming long weekend or is that because people care more this year?), I’ve gotten into the habit of telling anyone who will listen that I am headed out to vote, as if by osmosis those who “don’t care” might just go and vote anyway. BC Elections’ current ad campaign, clearly designed to appeal to a hip and cool crowd, claims it’s a “5 minute process”.  For comparison’s sake, when I attended the advance poll yesterday, it took 7 minutes from the time I entered the building to the time my ballot was cast into the box. 

It’s often said (and joked) that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain. And while amusing, there is a fairly sizable grain of truth to the adage. If you don’t participate in the process of electing, then you aren’t a part of a system that, by design, allows for complaining. I know I often feel helpless and I often feel like I don’t matter to various officials – whether municipal, provincial, or federal – but the fact is that I have the power to speak up. Yesterday I did. You should, too.

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16 Replies to “Political Grinch”

  1. Great post – thanks! It's true, youthful awareness of politics evolves over time.

    As we get older and assume the responsibilities of adulthood (post-secondary education; employment; marriage; children), it becomes ever more clear that what happens at the political decision-making level does, in fact, affect our lives.

    Active involvement begins with a trip to the polls, but understanding the importance of voting really hits home when decisions have a DIRECT (usually adverse) impact on one's community, school, employment, or family. That's when people begin to really pay attention, and also begin to engage the "system".

    If the "politics" of the system become frustrating enough, it is not uncommon for "advocates" to take the big leap into the very public arena of municipal, provincial, or federal politics with a confirmed intent "to fix things, … single-handedly".

    For those who take that route, it ultimately (and quickly) becomes very clear that one person cannot make that kind of difference because in order to "fix things", a majority vote at the decision-making level is required. And it is this very realization that leads to the formation of "alliances" and political parties.

    That said, every individual politician has a duty to act and vote with integrity, and be accountable to the public. When that happens, the public good is properly served. When it doesn't, it hurts us all. For the system to be successful, the onus really is on the citizen to become informed, be proactive (attend meetings, write letters or now, post to blogs), and most importantly, exercise their right to vote at every opportunity they get. It matters.

    Again, great post — thanks!

  2. I too just finished voting. And I actually took a look at the proposed electoral map should STV pass. Where people get this funky idea that "local representation will be enhanced" I have absolutely no idea. A simple look at the FPTP map shows New Westminster as an electoral riding on its own. Under STV… poof gone, thrown in with the 4 Burnaby ridings into a Burnaby New Westminster riding. I can see people in Burnaby being in favour of it, because they'll in all probability wind up with 5 MLAs, while New West by population and geographic measurements stand a chance of having NO local MLAs. I would rather have 1 local MLA for sure, than a chance of their being NONE.

  3. Methinks the hue and cry for local representation is a wee bit over-blown. I think that if a constituent has an issue, he/she will be well served by any elected MLA that he/she chooses to engage.

    Take our current New Westminster MLA as an example; I have read a number of media articles commending his efforts to help the families that were affected by a work-related incident at a Langley mushroom-manure company.

    He also was active to promote the concerns of the Chilcotin first nations from the Thompson-Valley region about their chief being buried at the high school lands (which threw us into a tizzy about the replacement of our high school).

    All of that aside, I wonder, how many locals really approach our MLA for help? Probably not many because mostly, people can find help and solutions at the municipal level.

    However the vote comes out on the STV, I honestly don't think much will change for New Westminster residents who seek representation/help at the provincial level.

  4. I would like to offer a genuine and relieved congratulations to Dawn Black. There is no question that the best candidate was elected. I know she will represent New Westminster well.

  5. I'm not so sure I would agree that the "best" candidate was elected. I am also not so sure that you can say there is no question since two candidates are essentially unproven in office. The most experienced? Yes. The most popular? For sure. Does it really matter? Not really.

  6. I will say that the best candidate won. Carole Millar brought absolutely NOTHING to the table. I'm sorry but reading word verbatim from the Campbell candidate handbook, without a single original thought in your only "high profile" public appearance in front of the electorate shows a degree of contempability towards that electorate. Anyone who knows me knows that I research people and issues during elections time. The BC Liberals could have put forward someone better than Ms. Millar. Or was it that no one of any stature from that side of the political spectrum in the community was willing to take the brass ring and run with it? Mike Redmond, where did you go? Lots to say in the paper talking down on Dawn. You're a former Conservative nominee in Burnaby New Westminster federally? How come you didn't step up? Patrick O'Connor? Why not you? Joyce Murray's former C/A and active on education issues in the community. But no where to be seen.

    You know, I'll even argue that those 2 respective people would have put up a better campaign and made it more interesting than what Ms. Millar did. What did she have to offer aside from some snide shots at both union people and also people like Dawn who step forward and run? My lasting impression of Ms. Millar is of someone who's not comfortable in her own skin. Because as even Gordo said, "those who resort to cheap shots, have nothing else to offer." But the electorate decided that.

    And Matthew Laird. While he is somewhat well spoken, he's not well prepared on topics he's not familiar with. Like goods movement/transportation issues, the ALR and others. At the all candidates meeting he got schooled on the ALR by Dawn Black. And though I tried afterwards to explain reality to Mr. Laird about goods movement throughout the lower mainland vs what he put out there, (being a truck driver and having an active interest in logistical issues on the ground as I do.) He didn't seem to comprehend the fact that alot of what he was saying about goods movement in New Westminster was factually wrong. Oh well, can lead a horse to water….

    The election overall went about the way I thought it would. With better strategy and some forethought back in 2007, I thought that the BCNDP had a legitimate shot back then of winning in 2009. Unfortunately, several people decided that equity mandates were more important than economic issues. And that ideology should win out over practicality and reality. Though the results from Tuesday overall weren't surprising, nonetheless, the fact remains that Campbell with all his warts (and more to be revealed as time goes by no doubt) still is in control of our government. This is the guy who 4 years ago took a wrecking ball to St. Mary's, then drained the surplus resulting from the closure to expand Surrey Memorial's Emergency ward and build a new one or something like that. Only problem… go to Surrey and see for yourself. Nothings been done. Meanwhile RCH is hurting bad. And as for accountability, as Carole Millar stated, "it's before the courts." And on and on and on. But oh well, we get the government we deserve.

    I'm a Dawn Black supporter and proud to be one, both federally and provincially. I also support our other MP in New Westminster, Peter Julian. Both are outstanding members of our community, and have both done excellent jobs in representing us in the House of Commons, and now with Dawn, the legislature. With better overall strategy and foresight and forethought, the overall campaign could have netted different results.

  7. Mr. Lundy; I think Dawn Black was the best candidate, and appreciate that you think so too. I know Patrick O'Connor, and he is a very knowledgeable and honourable person. If he ran, I agree, it would have been a better "race" because it would have made the choice for MLA more difficult. The Liberals ran the wrong person and I am sure they won't do that again!

  8. Anonymous:

    Out of curiousity, who do you think would have been the right person to run for the Liberals, and who perhaps do you see on the horizon?

  9. I have no idea who could be their next candidate but the suggestion you made about Mr. O'Connor was good. I just think that the citizens of New West deserve stellar candidates to choose from.

  10. P.S. We want thinking people who are involved in and know our community. No matter what the outcome then, it would be good for us.

  11. Anonymous: “We want thinking people who are involved in and know our community. No matter what the outcome then, it would be good for us.” – AMEN! No matter what the party, I believe if the candidate is truly passionate about their community and committed to making the best choices for its citizens, New West will be well served.

  12. Hi Brianna;

    Nice to know you think that way too. The one thing is, in our politically polarized city, that thinking-community oriented-advocate would also have to be very open-minded.

    A certain party or slate might be the best fit for any particular candidate but they have to be mindful that once elected, they have to serve ALL of their constituents, not just the ones who gave their support.

  13. Anonymous:

    I think that for the most part, whether municipally, provincially or federally, the people who hold office in New West, directly or indirectly, get that. With several multi term councillors and a multi term Mayor, as well as Members of Parliament who have won successive elections, and now our provincial rep, you don't attain success at that level solely by catering to your own exclusive people between elections.

    I've said before in another blog, that the most successful people and leaders are the ones who listen the best, and not just from the viewpoint or bias that they themselves come to the table with. Our current crop of representatives at all levels of government seem to get it.

    I remember a time in New West when our provincial rep put a buzzer on her door, and didn't have time for anyone who didn't see the world in her eyes or view. The citizens of New West turfed her out after one term. That's to me the loudest lesson of all.

  14. Mr. Lundy,

    There is validity to what you say, but there are also a lot of disenfranchised individuals with serious concerns, particularly about the New Westminster school system. Many don't feel well served or listened to.

  15. woa nelly !

    What this at the top that say's tenth of the fraser does not endorse any candiates ?

    I call time out on that one !
    I just read post by Will Tomkinson about what candiates they endorse !

    Was this before ? Or after ?



    1. During the last election, we decided that "Tenth to the Fraser" as an entity would not endorse specific candidates, but that the individuals who write for it could share their personal views.

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