With one final wave of promises, unabashed plugs and insinuations the 2002 Whistler municipal election wraps up this week, with voters deciding Saturday who they want to make decisions on their behalf for the next three years. While many will be happy the campaign trail is finally ending, for others time has simply run out.
There is a sense of frustration among some candidates, shared in this corner, that it is not possible in the space of five weeks to convey all the messages that all the candidates have to tell the voting public. For many voters, their decisions are made by weighing the limited information that comes out of the traditional all candidates meeting and the coverage that appears in the local papers. This may be a slightly better way of determining who to vote for than relying on recommendations from friends, but it is still incomplete. Think of how many issues did not even surface at the all candidates meeting or in the papers over the last five weeks.
Even the incumbent council members, whose words and decisions are chronicled weekly, have bemoaned the lack of information or public understanding of decisions made and positions taken.
It's ironic, because in this age of information there should be more opportunities than ever to find out about candidates and issues. It just takes a little effort by the voter. Three years ago, during the dot-com boom, a company offered every candidate in the B.C. municipal elections a basic Web site at no charge. The idea was candidates could post positions and ideas for voters to peruse at their convenience. The company providing the Web sites was hoping the offer would lead to business after the election.
No company stepped forward with such an offer this year, so candidates were on their own if they wanted a Web site. In the local election, some candidates have Web sites, several do not. All candidates have e-mail addresses but not all candidates wanted their e-mail addresses publicized.
All candidates also have phone numbers, if voters really wanted to pose a question or find out a candidate's position on something.
What does seem apparent, in the days before voters go to the polls, is that there is more interest in this election than in elections in years past. Why that seems to be is open to speculation. It could be specific issues, such as the Olympics or affordability or TA zoning; it could be dissatisfaction or frustration with the status quo; it could be fear of some of the challengers getting elected. It may even be a sign that Whistlerites are more interested in playing a role in local affairs. There was evidence of that interest earlier this year in the World Economic Forum debate, opposition to the cost of a proposed municipal Web site, and last month's meeting on the Olympics.
The number of candidates this year is another indication of interest in this election, and in Whistler's future.
What is also refreshing is that among 20 people running for council this year there are no one-issue candidates, as there were three years ago. To be sure, there are still people beating the drum on the TA issue, but that hasn't been the primary theme for any of the candidates.
The hope here is that interest in this year's election is reflected in a large voter turnout Saturday. That in itself would be a fitting sign of respect and appreciation for all the candidates who put their names forward to serve this town.
But regardless of who is elected Saturday, the interest shown in this election needs to be maintained, in the next phase of the Whistler. It's Our Future sustainability plan, in continuing to shape the Olympic bid, and in public understanding and participation in difficult decisions facing the next council.
Now, get out and vote.