There are many things money can buy and, to no one's great surprise, one of them is an election.
This is hardly a news flash, but the reality was brought home yet again to Vancouverites in the aftermath of the recent municipal election. The two main parties, accurately described as "developer parties" by failed council candidate Tim Louis of COPE, predictably came out on top. Vision Vancouver (now with the mayor and seven councillors, as well as the bulk of Park and School boards) must clearly think its $2 million-plus campaign chest well spent. The NPA scored two council candidates and others on the boards for about the same financial outlay. COPE spent $350,000 to elect one person to School Board, a particularly lousy outcome. Adriane Carr of the Greens who won a seat, and the various independents who didn't, very likely had considerably lower cost/vote ratios.
As an example, Raymond Louie (Vision), the top polling council candidate of all scored 63, 273 votes. His ratio for dollars spent was something like $32/vote. Elizabeth Ball's (the NPA's top) came in at $39/vote. Ellen Woodsworth, the losing COPE councilor, spent $7/vote. De-Growth Vancouver spent $1,300 total and my vote tally was 8,219, or 16 cents/vote.
The take home message is pretty obvious: To win an election in Vancouver, it's pretty much about the money. Vision Vancouver remains in that ultimate sweet spot of having both developer and union funding. Given this, there is no reason to believe that besides massive incompetence or malfeasance over the next three years they won't win future elections as well. It must be even sweeter for them to finally be rid of that pesky COPE, the latter having just experienced the political equivalent of species extinction.
COPE's outcome has pretty much taken it out of the electoral gene pool. In this regard, the election was also about stupidity: Former councilors Woodsworth and Cadman can try to blame Tim Louis all they like, but the reality was that it wasn't Louis's run that did them in. In fact, it was nothing apart from their foul alliance with Vision. Why go for Vision-lite when you can have Vision classic? Or, depending on one's political outlook, an independent candidate? COPE's constituency is gone, filled on the right by Vision, on the centre by the Greens and Neighborhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, on the left by various groupings including De-Growth. The remnant of COPE can now slide one way or the other, but the niche they thought they owned is gone.
In this election, something like 34.6 per cent of eligible voters made the effort to vote. What that translates to is this: Gregor Robertson's 53.4 per cent total equates to something like 18.5% of the electorate. Raymond Louie's is about 15 per cent. Both Roberston and Louie and the rest of the Visionista regime can crow about "mandates" to govern, but numbers like this make it obvious that they do not command the support of most of the public. It may be apathy on the part of those who didn't vote, or maybe those abstainers are just smarter: Maybe the non-voters looked at the money issue and knew that there was little they could do to change the outcome and so didn't bother. They could be wrong of course and maybe Carr's election points to this, but the overall outcomes make it seem likely that they are right.
Legitimate government is built on two key pillars. The first is the consent of the governed; the second on the services governments choose to provide. Vision Vancouver, like the NPA before them, fails the first. In regard to the issues of homelessness, sustainability, and real democracy, both parties fail the second. Given this, there is little left that either have to offer besides besides deals for the developers and hot air for the rest of us.
Maybe it's time for those fed up with the endless status quo to declare the Republic of Vancouver as a city independent of the developers and their puppet parties?