Wow, what a whirlwind -- it wasn't. Nope, the 2010 election was put in the history books, not with a bang, but with a wimper. There was no excitement, palpable or otherwise, despite a couple of surprising upsets, and not helping things last night was the demure, understated, morgue-like atmosphere of "Election Headquarters" at the council chambers. I was doing the CFRU election show as staff was cleaning up around us, and it was only 10 'o' clock. If a party that ends before midnight is lame, what about a party that wraps around 10?
Well, enough about that. Frankly, it was hard to be excited about an election that barely crossed the one-third mark for voter turnout, as evidenced by the fact that BARELY ONE-THIRD OF ELIGIBLE VOTERS TURNED OUT. Upsetting? You bet. And it's just one of the many thoughts and emotions shared in my after action report below.
1) Shifting Allegiances
Karen Farbridge's Thunderdome like defeat of David Birtwistle was impressive, but not for the way that Farbridge consolidated her base in support of a second term. There were several people I talked to on Election Night that said though they were once Farbridge supporters, but they couldn't bring themselves to put their support behind her this time. Instead the protest vote went to Ray Mitchell, who had a surprisingly strong finish of nearly 1,200 votes. Many cited Mitchell's performance and his highlighting of social justice issues in the campaign as reasons why he won the support that he did.
Farbridge, meanwhile, seemed to pick up steam from a previously hostile constituency: business-savvy voters. A source told me that a group of fickle voters she works with were impressed by Farbridge as the best choice for Mayor so far as looking after the city's business interests are concerned. A far cry from the days when the Mayor was seen as ambassador for the Guelph's "Looney Left."
But perhaps it was a void. Birtwistle, as the stalwart on the right side of the local spectrum, seemed to only halfheartedly be in the race despite the fact that he came out swinging early, being the first with election signs out and the first with the opening of a campaign office. Many people also noted that Birtwistle's website, to which I was directed for information about his platform, actually had very little it terms of plans or goals of a Birtwistle mayoralty. In the end, I guess, it almost seemed like a one woman race.
2) So you're a referee...?
Andy Van Hellemond won handily in Ward 2 Monday night with over 2,500 votes, nearly 400 more than his nearest competition, incumbent Ian Finlay. Obviously, Van Hellemond has name cache, but I'll be damned if I knew what he stands for. I wasn't at the Ward 2 debate, but only a fool leans his whole ambitions on a single debate performance. Google 'Andy Van Hellemond' and you'll get more references to Van Hellemond's career as an NHL referee than his political career by a factor of about 9 to 1. His Facebook page is spartan at best, and only has about 15 friends. So where did the other 2,500 come from?
3) Guthrie Vs Kovac: Detente?
Weirdly, it seems that my home ward might have a more interesting post-election than campaign with Cam Guthrie and Gloria Kovach being elected as the new Ward 4 councillors. As you'll recall, there was a bit of a controversy regarding Guthrie's use of multiple aliases while posting on the 59 Carden Street blog. Said blog also noted how at a CUPE all-candidates meeting, the two took swipes at each other with Guthrie saying that it's important for a candidate to live in their ward, with Kovac coming back saying "Integrity is very important to me and I know my name." Given the mutual singes delivered by both candidates, it will be interesting to see how the two can/will work together.
4) Satisfaction is Job Done.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wards 3 and 5 stayed the same last night. Lise Burcher and Leanna Piper had exactly one competitor, Douglas O'Doherty. Apparently, many of the people living in the Village by the Arboretum had heard that O'Doherty had dropped out of the race, which might explain his third place finish. Still, O'Doherty garnered 2,300 votes, which probably represents the anti-incumbent contingent in Ward 5.
As for Ward 3, Maggie Laidlaw and June Hofland practically had a photo finish for first and second, with fiscal conservative Craig Chamberlain finishing third at around 1,600 votes. Of course there might have been a bit of vote-splitting between Chamberlain, Mark Enchin and Dimitrios “Jim” Galatiano, who were all financial reformers, as they together garnered about 1,977 votes, which still falls short of the 2,202 votes secured by Hofland.
The lesson: the residents were very satisfied with their representation. In all, only four new candidates were installed last night, and two of those slots were vacant to begin with.
5) Where was the outrage?
Admit it, 33.9 per cent is pitiful for voter turnout. Crawling slowly to one-third of potential ballots cast was one of the most surprising and disappointing news items of the night. Honestly, what does it take for people to get out there and exercise their vote? Take this letter to the Mercury that was posted on 59 Carden. It's from a woman named Jeri who picked her son up from Paisley Public School yesterday when she found out that the school was a polling place for the Municipal Election, and there was no heightened security posture on behalf of the students by the officials at Paisley Public.
First of all, I've never known a polling station not set up some place like a school or church. Why not? If there's one thing you can find in any neighbourhood, in any town or city in this country, it's a church or a school. Or both. I remember going with my mom and dad to a polling station in my elementary school when I was a kid. The first time I ever voted was at the local Catholic School. This seems to have been a thing for a long time. Secondly, do the freaks and monsters out there lie in wait for Election Day to make their move? I don't think so. And if you're going to kidnap a kid, there are easier ways than sneaking into a school under the guise of a voter and then somehow, surreptitiously, get out of the gym area and sneak around the school and shop for a victim.
But the checkmate move was when Jeri said, "I don’t vote so I was unaware of the voting locations." And then she immediately followed that with saying, "As a parent I feel I have the right to be informed of such procedures that occur in my child’s school." Uh, don't those two things go hand in hand? You don't vote and then lament your lack of awareness. Has Jeri heard about irony? As someone that commented on the blog said, perhaps if Jeri voted for school trustee and was engaged with the political process, then she might know what "procedures" "occur" in her child's school. You can't not be engaged in the political process and complain about how no one engages you.
And with 66 per cent of the city's voting population sitting at home yesterday, it seems that the tyranny of arm-chair quarterbacking will continue for the next four years. You think your taxes are too high? Vote. Hate the way the transit system is run? Vote. Don't like the new garbage system? For the love of Holy God, take two and a half minutes out of your day and VOTE.
To put it another way, 18 per cent of Guelph voters just gave Karen Farbridge four more years. Is there any decision in your life that you would commit to with only 18 per cent certainty, because that's what this says: Only 18 per cent of the people in Guelph were of the strong belief that Farbridge should be our mayor. Fifteen per cent thought differently, but most of the rest just didn't seem to give a damn. If people are that upset about the state of the city, I guess people just like being upset. What a world if we have nothing to complain about.