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Voter burnout may be one reason. Last month we were subjected to a cynical, unnecessary and virtually meaningless federal election. With the three major party leaders displaying collectively about as much charisma as a colony of flatworms, Canadians turned out in record low numbers to replace a minority Conservative government with another minority Conservative government. Just because I believe there is nothing more important and engaging than local politics doesn’t mean that wave of apathy didn’t continue to dominate voters’ disinterest in all things political.
Perhaps the choice of candidates didn’t spark enough interest this time around. A number of people I’ve spoken with expressed the belief that Ken’s diminished numbers represent an alienation of what was his core constituency last time around, enviroactivists, treehuggers, and those leery of putting power in the hands of the perceived pro-business candidate. Kristi, on the other hand, despite having run an amazing campaign machine, wasn’t able to convince enough voters she wouldn’t turn the keys to the future over to those chanting “Grow, baby, grow.” Perhaps there was some ephemeral quality missing from both frontrunners that discouraged participation.
Then there is the timing issue. For better or worse — probably better from a mental health perspective — a lot of Whistleratics view this time of year as the best time of year to be somewhere else, somewhere where it doesn’t rain so much, somewhere where they can dodge the daily angst of wondering when the snow will come, somewhere, anywhere but here. Several of them expressed their frustrations in not being able to cast their ballots some way other than in person.
While absentee voting might make sense, it is not without potential peril, especially in this town. Being able to cast a vote from afar may return the franchise to those who choose to holiday during elections. But it’ll also enable the many non-resident condo owners to cast a vote as well. Is that important? It is if you want to keep control of local elections in more or less local hands. Consider the differential between winner and loser in the last two elections — 353 and 309 votes. Far fewer than the number of people spread out across Canada who own Whistler real estate. An effective campaign to reach those potential voters could change the outcome of the local vote. I’m not certain the nebulous connection of owning a piece of the dream is the kind of nexus I want determining who actually runs things around here.