Saturday was a good day for local democracy in B.C. As one person noted online: "First time in my life I've had to wait to vote in a local election....What the hell is going on?" What was going on was that voters were coming out of the woodwork by the thousands in towns and cities across B.C. and it seems that those who skipped 2011 had one thing on their mind this time.
Most of the billions spent on B.C. infrastructure projects in 2012 flew under the provincial radar. Out of sight, out of mind. Cost overruns rarely made a media ripple outside of the affected community. Yet, through various cost sharing formulas, we're all on the hook for them one way or another, whether it's the Vancouver Convention Centre expansion or new roads in Campbell River.
No matter how well-intentioned the B.C. government's first round of electoral reforms may be, they are -- for the most part -- cosmetic in nature when contrasted against the public's very real loss of confidence in local democracy. Without meaningful electoral finance reform including election spending and contribution limits, candidacy for local government will -- by and large -- remain the purview of the affluent and well-connected.
At least 30 officials in the communities that make up Metro Vancouver earn a minimum six-figure salary that puts them among the top one per cent of all income earners in Canada. It takes a lot of kahunas for some of these same civic officials to claim that their cupboards are bare when the cookie jar is overflowing for themselves.