Thursday, November 24, 2011

Post-Election Parties

For the record, I am not a member of the NDP. Just in case y'all were wonderin'...

I have a lot of admiration for the social justice side of the NDP platforms provincially and federally, and I appreciate the hard work that our MP's and MLA's do. They really are approachable people and very knowledgeable. Some of them even have impeccable environmental credentials. But we part ways on many economic issues, where my leanings are on the "liberal" side...

I recently became aware of the rather large degree of overlap between the NDP and our municipal politicians. As supporters of one of our more popular councillors, my husband and I were invited to the "victory" party down at Taverna Greca last Saturday night. I felt a little out of place amongst the veritable who's who of the NDP in the room. I heard many voice sentiments like "it's great that all of ours got in", and "we swept Burnaby again". While I have nothing against the celebratory atmosphere, and cannot find fault with the hard-working folks making these election results possible -  after all, the point of elections is to win, right? - I am very uncomfortable with the disenfranchisement that can result from working the party system in municipal politics with the current voting system we have.

Check out our neighbours over in Burnaby. Once again, the BCA (the NDP slate) got a landslide - ALL council seats - with 60% popular support.  Yeah, it's great to win, but really, this is unfair to the other 40% of the population who didn't support BCA (it's clear that most voters in Burnaby vote along slate lines). Why should they not get 40% of the seats? It would still leave the BCA with the Mayor's chair and the majority on Council. What happens to opposing ideas - and some of them may well be good ones? There's no dialog in Burnaby City Council now, it's just an echo chamber. I really don't see how this is good for democracy. It disturbs me to hear influential people say, out loud, that this result is a good thing. It disturbs me even more to hear that this is something that these influential people are striving to replicate in New Westminster.

Now, New Westminster is not Burnaby. Contrary to what some might say, there is no NDP-run slate. Yes, there is a large degree of overlap in supporters between the NDP machinery and the campaign workers of the various candidates, but the overlap is NOT 100%. Some of the Labour-endorsed candidates have campaign volunteers and donors who would never vote NDP if their lives depended on it. Further, there is no requirement that one must be a member of the NDP in order to be endorsed by the Labour Council. Also, there is no platform, no "party line" that controls how the individual councillors will vote on issues, once elected.  There is not even a party "name", and there is nothing on the signs of the Labour-endorsed candidates that would allow the average non-involved voter to identify them (unlike Voice candidates). The Labour Council does not (yet) endorse a full slate of candidates (and, for the record, I hope that they never do). All these points make the situation quite different from Burnaby...but it's clear that it could head in the same direction, given some concerted action. And the other night at Greca there was a clear vibe that at least some people were considering such concerted action.

That said, if I look at how many votes the New West Voice candidates got, it is not enough to warrant even a single seat on Council, which leads me to conclude that their message - on Council topics, at least - is not resonating with voters. Two independent candidates outranked Voice. On the School Board, though, Voice candidates garnered about 43% of the popular vote, and indeed got 3 seats - exactly as they deserve! So right now, the system works fairly in New Westminster.

But it will stop being fair once slates (parties) get established, and I suspect both sides know it.

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