August 14, 2018

Civic Savvy: What’s going on with the local elections?


Not much is going on.  It’s August; no one seems to care about an election in October.  Not at least until after Labour Day.

I’m calling up people whose job it is to care – the campaign managers and supporters around the candidates, the savvy ones – and asking them for their take on what’s happening.

The first one I contacted affirms that, yup, it’s too quiet – and too confusing.  The fear: so many parties, too many candidates, so that a lot of people may decide early on that it’s too much work to keep track.  They aren’t going to pay attention even as the election approaches, and in the end they simply won’t vote.

It’s therefore possible, goes the concern, that a very few percent of voters – 33 percent or less – will end up choosing a mayor and council that, if other places are a precedent, will result in a dysfunctional council.  Example elsewhere: Nanaimo.

It also means that some mayoral candidate with a simple message, aiming to rile up a  base, can run on an outlandish, divisive platform and end up in power.  Example elsewhere: well, you know who.

Wai Young, for instance, might be that outsider in Vancouver with a simple message (damn bike lanes), especially with an attraction to Cantonese speakers.  But she likely wouldn’t have a supportive council.  Hence, dysfunction.

My contact just raised that theory.  Doesn’t yet have an answer as to how to respond.  The question is whether a credible candidate, aiming for a broad base, can get enough profile and support to prevail on a fractured ballot with a low turnout.


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