Finally, on May 16, the 1996 provincial election really got underway.
It wasn’t the leaders’ so-called debate on TV, although that also happened on that same Thursday.
It wasn’t the Vancouver Sun/BCTV poll results published that day that said the NDP and Liberals were dead even.
No, for me the election really got underway just before 8 a.m. May 16 on the approach to the Lions Gate Bridge. That was where I got Burmashaved, not once, but twice. First it was Ted Nebbeling’s supporters, and then 100 metres down the road Brenda Broughton’s crew got me.
It happened again later that day, at the corner of Venables and Clark Drive. This time it was Liberal candidate Anne Beer. (Why she wouldn’t legally change her first name to Free is beyond me. People would race to vote for the Liberal Party and Free Beer, even in East Vancouver.) The whole of Vancouver seemed to have developed a taste for Burmashaving that morning.
"Burmashaving" is when party supporters stand at the side of the road with signs bearing the name of the local candidate and wave at cars passing by. There used to be a sign on one of the towers of the old Blue Chair telling riders to "Eat Burmashave," but in these politically-correct times such a response is no longer considered appropriate.
Anyway, being Burmashaved three times in one morning was enough to show me that after two weeks of ho-hum rhetoric the campaign was getting serious. Later that evening, the leaders of the five biggest parties traded insults, hurled accusations and dodged questions on province-wide TV, demonstrating that the democratic process was alive and flourishing.
Some of the candidates in West Vancouver-Garibaldi made it to Whistler the next evening for our local version of Let’s Test Democracy. To say the performance — by questioners as well as candidates — was disappointing would be like saying Glen Clark and Gordon Campbell disagree on a few issues. It was not what the ancient Greeks had in mind when they began to flesh out the idea of participatory democracy a few years back.
But this is a B.C. election, where else would a drained lake be seen as a political act?