Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ok, we voted, so get back to work will ya...

In the end the numbers tell the tale of Tuesday’s election, British Columbians decided that they liked the same seating chart at the Legislature, offering up much the same in returns in 2009 as they did in 2005.

In fact there was little difference in the popular vote numbers of Tuesday as those of four years ago and despite the always present debate that the mainstream parties don’t listen, there is still little hope for the fringe parties to sit at the big boy’s and girls table in the legislature.

But of all the numbers to be crunched from Tuesday’s exercise of democracy it’s the number of British Columbians that bothered to vote that stands out the most.

Once again, the province’s voters did not turn out in resounding numbers, as less than 51 per cent of the eligible voters cast a vote provincewide on Tuesday, below 50 percent in Greater Vancouver, providing for a continuing downward trend that suggests a growing disconnect between the population and those that run for office and our apparent interest in having a says as to who will govern us.

It’s a worrisome trend, leaving the validation of governance of the province to the dwindling number of participants who are willing to make time to ensure that the democratic process remains the key ingredient of our system.

For those that scream out that electoral reform is the answer that quest took a rather serious hit as well on Tuesday.

The electoral reform referendum showed that most British Columbians are more comfortable with the way things are than with the confusing and apparently unwanted mechanism known as the Single Transferable Vote.

The STV vote reflected the impression of the voters that the initiative was never fully explained left many confused as to the process in play and what their vote would mean and more importantly how it would result in a beneficial change to the political spectrum.

With but only 39 per cent of the vote in favour of rewarding the runners up when we go to the polls, British Columbians reinforced the notion that either you win the riding outright or you go home, no need to hang around Victoria looking for a place to set up shop and collect a paycheque.
While the quest for change to the system will no doubt continue to be called for (especially from those that did not reach the Legislature), it would appear that for the short term there is no real appetite among that electorate that votes to change the system.

With the election all but called by 9:10 on Tuesday evening, the prospect of another term of Liberal governance was quickly becoming clear. All that remained to be seen as the vote was counted was who would accompany the Premier in his next term of office and what cabinet material would be arriving in Victoria for assignment.

The coalition of the old Social Credit and Liberal parties has proven to be a rather formidable political force in the province, leaving little in the way of middle ground for the NDP to chip away at unless there is some kind of galvanizing cause that can’t be ignored.

Despite the many challenges that face the province in troubled economic times, from education to health issues, to job creation and beyond, the simple fact from the election results was that the province’s voters felt that they were more comfortable with Mr. Campbell’s agenda and endorsed his third trip to the government side of the Legislature, than they were with Ms. James call to Take back Your BC.

The resounding victory, and with this third consecutive term not even underway yet and already the reporters and commentators were speculating on whether Premier Campbell was up for a fourth term in 2013. A decision rather far down the road one would imagine, but one which would put him in the same league as WAC Bennett when it comes to consecutive electoral success and political legend.

The Premier hinted in one interview that going for four consecutive terms may be on his horizon, depending on whether he is still enjoying his work and feels that the people still would endorse him. It's always a dangerous thing to do when you haven’t even started your third term, but in the euphoria of the moment one suspects that his aspirations got ahead of him.

Politics and running a province always offer up unexpected twists and turns, there will be a lot of political machinations to come over the next four years, before he can contemplate that run for dynasty.

Over on the opposition side of the results, Ms. James fielding the anticipated questions over her timetable and held to the talking points that it was time to reflect on the results but not necessarily leave her post just yet. The NDP which seems to have short shelf space for losing campaigns of late, will no doubt read the polls, check the electoral results and formulate their plans for four years from now.

At the moment there isn’t any real alternative in the wings waiting to take over the leadership if ever Ms. James decides to step aside, or if that possibility is suggested by party officials. But the jockeying for 2013 no doubt will begin in the backrooms sometime after the summer holidays.

As admirable as her campaign was to her supporters, the purpose of political parties for the most part is to take power and effect change, the NDP did not succeed in that mission and there will not doubt be calls from within to seek out a new direction, a new platform and a new approach to campaigns to come.

Likewise, the Green Party while finding some success in assorted ridings and a small increase in the vote in those ridings, still did not place a member in the legislature and their much cherished quest for STV and a way into the debating club in Victoria was quashed by a huge margin.
The party still appears to be more of a convenient parking spot for some voters and more of a political action committee than bona fide party at the moment, fighting the good fight for the good causes but not collecting enough interested voters to really make a difference to the make up of the Legislature. It will be interesting to see how they progress after this second consecutive shut out of the process, despite the high profile that they gave to their concerns.

The low voter turnout suggests that the process is being taken for granted, those that vote far more engaged in the process than the remainder who found other things to do on election day than take the five or ten minutes required to mark an X and offer their opinion to the province’s direction.

There are clearly roughly fifty percent of those potential voters still looking for a reason to become engaged and issue an opinion, suggesting room for another option, one not yet in place, but one that if it ever finds a voice could change the dynamics of this province in the years to come.
The quest to corral that missing vote will begin again over the next four years, find a way to bring the missing voters and their votes back into the election booth and our provincial elections may one day prove to offer more than the usual results, from the

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