November 22, 2002 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - What was that you said? 

Whistler voters have spoken, their message is open to interpretation

By G.D. Maxwell

Democracy – ya gotta love it. On a typical, November, Wet Coast kind of day, a surprising number of Whisterites and weekenders made the trek to Myrtle Philip school to stand in the rain and do their civic duty.

Up on the mountains, just below Whistler’s mid-station, the rain turned to snow and fell in buckets. Bob Morton, who probably knows the rolling terrain of the mountain as well or better than any living person, wasn’t sure whether the snowcat he was driving was still on the road or… or just exactly where it was. But with heavy snow falling, two things were clear: the mountains were going to open on time and his best bet was to stay the course, which was to say, head on up-mountain.

Down in the valley, things weren’t so clear.

While record numbers of wet bodies came out to cast votes, the overall percentage of eligible voters – a truly unknown figure – who exercised their franchise was still anemic. Just over 3,000 votes were cast, the majority at Myrtle Philip on Saturday but a couple of hundred split between early ballots and the West Vancouver polling station. With a full-time population hovering around 10,000, maybe half of whom are eligible, and a significant number of second homeowners and condo commandos who could mark a ballot, there’s no strong reason to celebrate, although the anecdotal accounts of large numbers of younger voters is heartening.

The hallmark of western democracies at the turn of the millennium continues to be voter apathy. "None of the above" still seems to be the most popular sentiment. Despite an active race for the mayor’s seat and 18 seekers running after six council slots – including all six incumbents – most of the voting-age population couldn’t be bothered contributing to the community in even this miniscule way. Pity that.

But while the 3,067 votes cast for mayor yielded a clear winner – two-time incumbent Hugh O’Reilly – this vote could hardly be considered an endorsement of the status quo. Two incumbent councillors, Stephanie Sloan and Ted Milner were stymied in their effort to secure a third term and two of the top three vote-getters for the reconstituted council were first timers, Caroline Lamont and Gordon McKeever. We might not have changed horses in midstream, but we’re probably not headed in exactly the same direction either.

And the fat lady’s still warming up. The statistically improbable happened Saturday evening: a tie. The numbers for the sixth council seat are stuck at 1,057 for incumbent Dave Kirk and newcomer Marianne Wade. A single "spoiled" ballot, rejected by one of the voting machines, is wending its way through the legal machinery but the outcome remains uncertain.

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