The BC Election Results Roll In.

I returned home recently from casting my ballots for the Referendum on Electoral Reform and for the provincial election. Passing a ‘save our schools’ sign near the parking lot of Connaught Heights Elementary School, we were greeted warmly by our fellow citizens and after a short paperwork check, we voted. I am one of those kooks that really like voting and now as I write, my wife and I are glued to our radios and computers, absorbing the returns (none yet) as they come in.

One point that struck me was the truth or falsity of the claim that a vote for the governing party is a wise move for a riding. The theory goes thus: if your riding has an MLA or an MP that is part of the governing party, your voice is more likely to be heard. Looking over the last 2 election cycles here in British Columbia, I don’t know if that is true. In our province, it is the opposition MLAs are able to fight for injustices, roil and debate in the legislature and generally cause a ‘hullabaloo’ on behalf of the constituency.

Think of the Liberal party discipline: write a questionable letter, you’re out. Speak up against established party doctrine: you’re out, or side-lined.

If you think about it, most of the reasons you need to get your MLA to go to bat for you are due to the actions of the government. School policies, hospital closures, waste and transit initiatives that impact your community; these things are brought by government and if there is a real concern and if your rep is in government, aren’t you S.O.L?A concrete example is MLA and AG Wally Oppal and insurgent indy candidate Vicki Huntington. The popularity of Ms. Huntington can be seen as a direct result of Mr. Oppals inability to represent the views of his riding in the public forum. If his voters don’t see him as their man, whose is he?

That brings me to STV. Imagine a riding with more than one MLA. One in government, one or two in opposition. Even if you voted for the MLA that is in government as your #1 choice, you have two other reps to go to bat for you if the some policy of the government threatens to bite you in the rear. Gone is the four year dictatorship. Instead we get a continuous conversation with the citizen.

As we go into the next cycle, I hope the STV will have passed, and the results of the next election will truely reflect the views of British Columbians and the citizens of New Westminster.

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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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