So much for dissatisfaction with the current council.
Whichever way one looks at the results of last Saturday’s municipal election — the substantial difference in vote totals between the incumbents and all challengers save for Nick Davies; the poor voter turnout (just 41 per cent of registered voters turned out, compared to 63 per cent three years ago); or some other measure — any complaints voters had about the job the present council has done over the last three years were outweighed by a desire to see those councillors carry on for another term.
The results do not provide as clear a mandate as was delivered in 1996, but it’s fair to say voters are reasonably satisfied with the direction the current council has taken. And this is probably good for Whistler, as to substantially change courses now, so close to the completion of long-term financial and community plans, could cost Whistler dearly. We may have a better understanding of how important this continuity is when the financial plan and capital plan are finished and made public next year.
As well, the voters deserve credit for recognizing that the issues important to Whistler’s future are bigger than, for example, pay parking — something that was mentioned many times during the campaign but seldom discussed in the context of the transportation strategy, or even in the context of facts. The majority of voters know that political representatives need to do more than just oppose past decisions.
Be that as it may, the re-elected councillors and mayor now know that they have to do a better job of communicating with the people of Whistler. Misinformation and a lack of understanding about issues such as the Olympic bid and the municipality’s investment policy didn’t serve candidates or voters well.
And despite attempts by some candidates to make it so, the election was not about giving Vancouver voters or young voters a greater say in municipal affairs. Both of those groups need to be heard, but council members need to hear all voices on an issue and balance individual or group interests with the interests of the community as a whole.
At the same time, the calibre of some of the candidates who were not elected this year holds promise for the future. They should be encouraged to stay involved through participation on committees, task forces or other advisory groups.
And finally, one of the most encouraging things about this year’s election was that money doesn’t seem to have been a major factor in determining who was elected. It still costs money to run a campaign, but it doesn’t appear as though spending substantially more money garnered substantially more votes.
The internet, which was used by some candidates this year, will play a much more substantial role in elections three years from now, but it should also help keep the playing field level. Assuming every candidate has a website and an e-mail address for the 2002 campaign, access to voters and voters’ access to candidates should be equal. And in theory we could have the most informed electorate and election campaign in history, reaching young voters, Lower Mainland voters, and anyone else who wants to be involved.