Zounds! The champagne’s been drunk, merry’s been made, congratulations and condolences have been expressed. Now it’s time to get down to the hard job of governing. Almost.
Before any of that begins, there’s the puzzling job of finding Whistler’s own disappeared. It would be easier to figure out who the disappeared are and where they disappeared to if, like Chile’s disappeared, we knew they’d mostly been rounded up and dispatched to the afterlife by some lowlife dictator with a twisted view on the most expedient way to deal with life’s little problems. However, I can attest firsthand to the fact that whatever his shortcomings may be, Mayor Ken is no Generalissimo Pinochet and has not sent those who dissed him in the last three years to dance with the angels.
One fact stands above all others when considering the arc of Whistler’s development as Canada’s premiere resort municipality. We are growing. By any measure, we are growing. Our footprint is more Sasquatchi like in 2008 than it was in 2005. Our housing stock is larger, our reputation is greater, our Olympic distortion more profound and, not surprisingly, our population is bigger and more restive than ever.
So why, given growth and a benevolent leader who doesn’t off his enemies, did almost 900 fewer people vote for the highest office in Whistlerland in 2008 than exercised their franchise in 2005? Are there any lessons to be learned or messages to be heeded in the face of this growing apathy? And does the plunge in voter turnout mean we should be looking at ways to make voting easier?
Three years ago, with a smaller population and, presumably, fewer eligible voters, 3,780 people cast ballots in the municipal election. Nineteen of them weren’t interested in voting for mayor, leaving 3,761 who voted for the top spot. In case you don’t remember, 1,769 voted for Mayor Ken, 1,416 choose former Mayor Ted Nebbeling, 346 cast their lot with Kristi Wells and the remaining 230 voted for others in the field of seven.
This time around, 2,903 people voted. Twice as many, 38, either weren’t interested in who was elected mayor or overlooked that column on the ballot. Ken, in yet another hard-fought race, garnered 1,527 votes, 242 fewer than last time. Kristi got 1,218 votes. The rest — including the inexplicable three who voted for Jag — split 120 votes between them.
So 896 fewer people cast a ballot for mayor of Whistler this time around. And while Ken enjoyed a larger percentage of votes cast — 53 per cent versus 47 per cent — his was a bigger slice of a much smaller pie. How come?