Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Exorcising democracy

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It didn’t hit me until the next day when I was writing a story about the plebiscite. 134,790 people cast votes. That number represented 46 per cent of eligible voters? There are only 293,000 eligible voters in all of Vancouver? A city of almost 2 million!

Then it hit me. That mass-o’-sprawl an hour-and-a-half south of town is the GVRD. Quick Watson, to StatsCan. City of Vancouver… 2001 census… 545,671 people. GVRD… 2001 count… 1,986,965. Holy shit! There are 21 separate cities down there. Brave, Larry Campbell, mayor of teeny, tiny Vancouver. But Babs Sharp, Mayor of North Van didn’t hold a vote. Neither did Malcolm Brodie, Mayor of Richmond. Nor Wayne Wright of New West. Or Lois Jackson of Delta.

Merde, dude. I’ve been had. This wasn’t any shiny exercise in democracy. This was a meatless bone to a starving dog.

The 2001 census of British Columbia counted 4,095,934 souls. Each and every one of them is going to be on the hook for B.C.’s share of the cost of holding the 2010 Games. The "resounding" Yes vote was cast by 2.1 per cent of them. Hey, man, majority rule! It’s the two per cent solution.

But let’s not split hairs. Elections are won by the people who turn out to vote and lost by the people who stay home and bitch. The sad fact is, while Vancouver’s plebiscite is to be applauded – something the powerboys of the BidCorp, Victoria and even our own mayor still won’t do – it is to democracy what the International Olympic Committee is to the Olympic Ideals: a sorry, pale reflection of the real thing.

The real travesty of Vancouver’s plebiscite though isn’t in the puny numbers. It’s how it’s being trumpeted as such a "win", such an overwhelming show of support not just in Vancouver, not just in B.C. but in the whole of Canada, by the very scoundrels who didn’t have enough faith in the people to allow us a vote in the first place.

And first among the scoundrels is our very own mayor.

According to Clare Ogilvie’s piece in the Province, His Hughness was "just thrilled" at the vote. "It was a huge turnout, a clear majority…." As we all know, math is hard.

Most disturbing is the apparent inability of Mayor O’Reilly to grasp the richness of what could have been. Two years ago when a vocal minority of people in Whistler were clamouring for a free vote on the Olympic bid, Hugh was ag’in it. His unwillingness to engage the populace seemed absurd given the initial Ipsos-Reid poll showing 74 per cent of Whistleratics in favour.