Opinion » Maxed Out

It’s a big job…and we’ll be watching

New mayor has a mandate



The word mandate, at least as it applies to politics, was redefined in Whistler Saturday. Every winner in every election likes to say the people have given them a mandate, the authority to implement their policies, vision and goals for the constituents who elected them.

Steven Harper said he was delivered a mandate to govern Canada when his Conservatives won the general election in May of this year. The Tories took 167 (54 per cent) of the seats in Parliament. In Canada's first past the post election system, they won that majority with just under 40 per cent of the popular vote. Stevie's mandate is one in name only yet, because his MPs can outvote all the other parties combined, they can - and are - ramming through legislation that will probably change the very nature of this country.

By contrast, Whistler's first XX mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, garnered two out of every three votes Whistleratics cast for mayor of Tiny Town. Her margin of victory was greater than four-to-one and five-to-one over her next two closest opponents. Her 2,636 votes were a better than a two-to-one margin over all the other votes cast for all the other candidates combined.

Now that's a mandate.

But what is it a mandate to do? In municipal government, the mayor only gets one vote. The vote of each of the six candidates who won council seats weighs the same as hers. There are no party politics at this level of government in this town, something for which we should all be grateful. Her effectiveness will, in the first instance, be defined by the extent to which she can get half or more of the new council to agree to implement any elements of the platform she defined in her campaign.

It will also depend on the extent to which she and council, working with the new CAO, can get senior levels of municipal staff to effectively implement those programs once they're voted on by a majority of council.

In the real world - unlike the hypothetical world described recently by our outgoing mayor - people are people and motivating them to do what you'd like them to do isn't quite so black and white as council sets policy, staff implements policy. If life were so tidy and leadership so easy, none of us would ever receive bad service in stores and restaurants, never be ignored by staff more interested in whatever fascinating information was dancing across their smart phone screen than our inability to find what we were looking for, and never have to take something back twice because it wasn't fixed right the first time.