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.
There were a few surprises in Saturday's civic elections in B.C., with some mayoral upsets and one supposedly close race
Considering that local councils in B.C. spend more than $8 billion a year of our money, it's a bit of a paradox that most voters -- if it's anything like last time -- will find something else to do this Saturday. In 2011, some communities saw turnouts of less than 30 per cent. In Vancouver, 34.6 per cent of voters cast a ballot. So maybe it's time to spark some inter-provincial rivalry for bragging rights.
In Vancouver, less than one in five eligible voters re-elected Gregor Robertson in 2011. In Victoria, less than one in six re-elected Dean Fortin. In Nanaimo, Kamloops, and Prince George, less than one in seven elected their mayors.
If local campaign spending is obscene, it only follows that candidates need to fall back on contributors with obscenely large wallets to pay the bills. And fall back they did. In the 2011 elections, the single largest donation was $960,000 courtesy of local land developer Rob Macdonald to Vancouver's NPA. To put that sum into context, it's more than double what Naheed Nenshi spent on his way to winning the mayor's chair of Calgary in 2010. Calgary has nearly a quarter of a million more voters than Vancouver.