Not Wasting My Vote

May 11, 2013

Until today, I had no idea who I was going to vote for.

The campaign signs went up on a dewy morning nearly a month ago. If I had been asked to vote on that day, I probably would have voted BC Green, regardless of the tired message that a Green vote is wasted. Paying attention to politics this past year has given me the confidence to know this: I am no longer going to vote for any person or party unless I can defend my decision to do so; otherwise, what’s the point in voting?

When I saw the Conservative blue signs going up around the valley, I laughed.  Who would waste their time and money running against the NDP, Liberals, and Greens in this race? A man named Damir Wallener. At least I could say with complete conviction there was no way I would vote for him, whoever he was, which was nice because it narrowed my options to three.

I am attracted to the BC Greens because of the great work Elizabeth May has done federally. Anytime any of the parties do anything ridiculous, she shouts about it to anyone who will listen. She is the best thing that has happened to this country and so I project the same could happen provincially if a BC Green party candidate won a seat in the legislature.

I tried to align myself with the NDP. On the surface of it, their platform answers my needs: more funding for schools and health care, no pipeline (maybe). But their track record niggles at my confidence in their ability to make logical decisions, not emotional ones. I’m talking about the HST. The Liberals promised not to introduce the tax but did anyway, and when they did—and any decent BC Liberal candidate will admit to this—they botched the job. They screwed up and they are still paying for it.

But it was the NDP supporters who took the decision to a referendum and won (barely). It cost everyone to change back to GST/PST. The NDP party should have hounded the Liberals into the ground for their mistake and used that leverage to win this election. Instead, it’s old news and we paid for the screw up and the fix. That can’t have been the best use of our taxes. I understand the NDP’s motivation, but I don’t agree with how they handled it.

I tried to connect with the BC Liberals, even though adding a pipeline through the province seems incongruous with the ubiquitous Beautiful British Columbia campaign. I am on board with their position on free enterprise. I understand that to pay for improvements on the Malahat the province needs tax money to do it, tax money that comes from pay cheques of people who are employed. No jobs = no taxes = no improvements on the Malahat. I just don’t think putting all our eggs in a basket full of Alberta oil is the best solution. The idea of moving oil to China so they can use it to fuel factories that make clothes for a 6-month-old makes me insane. I don’t want to live in that world. I want a government who puts a hand in the face of oil and figures out how to make alternative energies profitable.

Then I went to the all-candidates’ meeting at the Cowichan Theatre on May 1st. Each candidate was allowed a three-minute speech to open the debate, starting with Mr. Wallener, the Conservative candidate. His opening speech was the first bit of honesty I’d heard in this whole campaign season. He admitted his party wouldn’t win and said his focus is on doing what’s best for the valley, and he would act as a watchdog who would keep the leadership and opposition in check. Anyone who has spent five minutes with me knows how I feel about the drawbacks to the party system, so Damir was speaking my language. He cared deeply about the school problem and wanted to resolve it by attracting more families to the Cowichan Valley. When his three minutes were up, I heard myself wolf-whistle. Holy crap, I liked Damir. Talking to my NDP and Green friends about this was going to be interesting.

The rest of the candidates at that all-candidates’ meeting were lackluster in comparison. None of them had the same local focus. Kerry Davis (BC Greens) was second best, in my opinion, but lacked the ease at speaking off the cuff that Damir showed, which will be important when battling to be heard in the legislature. I realize that comes with practice, and training a strong young candidate like Kerry might be worthwhile for this riding’s future.

Then today, I had the most amazing opportunity to sit down to brunch at the Silver Bridge Inn’s Old Fork Restaurant with Steve Housser (BC Liberals), Amanda Jacobson (BC Liberals Nanaimo/North Cowichan), Mayo McDonough (Green Nanaimo/North Cowichan), Kerry Davis, Doug Routley (NDP Nanaimo/North Cowichan), Damir Wallener, and Murray McNab (Independent Nanaimo/North Cowichan). It was as Young Professionals of Cowichan event that was (sadly yet thankfully) poorly attended so it was an equal number of politicians and young people sharing civil discourse around the same table. What a freaking gift!

As we tucked into the best eggs benedict I have ever had in this town, the candidates answered so many of our questions about the value of our vote in a two-party race, the pros and cons to lowering the voting age, school funding and the school-trustee situation, the pipeline. Doug Routley explained a little about the role of the opposition and other aspects of our province’s politics, which enlightened me. I have enormous respect for Doug after today’s brunch, not just because his white shirt was without a wrinkle. If I lived north of Herd Road, my X would go beside his name, no question.

But I live in the Cowichan Valley riding, a special little unit of space where agriculture, forestry, fisheries, retirees, lifestylers, and many small businesses reside together beside the sea. I care about what happens in the rest of the province, but I am invested financially, emotionally, and spiritually in this hidden gem. I want someone in the legislature who I trust will defend the valley’s needs first and foremost.

I took the three kiddles to the voting booth this afternoon and it was without hesitation but with great amazement that I put my X next to Damir Wallener, BC Conservative Party. His party won’t win so what we disagree on (pipeline) is less relevant than what we agree on: making this valley even more wicked awesome than it already is.

I can just hear Al Siebring chuckling about this. Who would have thought I’d vote blue? It is because I did more than watch the signs pass by my windshield. All the candidates are exceptional people—we are lucky to have such a passionate crop to choose from.

But I felt the most connected to Damir because I heard him not read from a script, I read about his ideas for improving the valley’s economics, and we had brunch together on a rainy Saturday where he stood out from the rest with his views on a commuter rail and high-tech jobs, and how he will speak publicly about what goes on in the legislature.

How can anyone call this a wasted vote?

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11 comments

  1. Maeve… I am “chuckling”, but only a little bit.
    Ultimately, I’m not surprised. Damir is, as you’ve identified, a quality guy.
    And I know you have an eye for quality. 🙂

  2. When it comes right down to it, do the values, attitudes and skills of the individual representatives really matter? From my perspective as a senior and a voter for over forty years, even the best representative still has to tow the party line – and whatever the party leadership wants, detrimental to the Cowichan Valley or not, will be what the representative votes for in the legislature. Call me a cynic, but I’ve seldom seen it happen differently. So my question to Damir (and to all the candidates) would be “If you disagree with a position your party is taking, will you cross the floor or become Independent in order to represent our needs?

  3. Hi Jean,

    That is a fair question, and based on what we’ve seen happen in Victoria, I wouldn’t call your perspective cynical at all. What you are describing happens all the time.

    My answer s that it depends on the severity of the disagreement. If we are arguing over whether to fix a section of highway in the first half or second half of 2014, that’s probably not an issue worth blowing up relationships over. If we are arguing over whether or not to, I don’t know, put an open pit coal mine in Glenora, then absolutely yes, I vote against the party line even if it means being booted from caucus.

    On an example currently on people’s minds, if it turned out that Northern Gateway would provide little long term benefit to BC and that taxpayers weren’t protected from possible accidents, then I would have to vote against it. The rewards have to be commensurate with the risks. And this isn’t just an idle statement – the BCCP has already had one candidate (Nathan Giede) publicly state support for a referendum on Northern Gateway, and another (Graeme James) publicly state opposition to the project in its current form.

    We are truly trying to be a big tent. It isn’t always easy, and it sure does get messy at times, but with the help of diligent voters I believe we really can make it happen.

    Regards,
    Damir Wallener

  4. You are a pretty damned good writer! Don’t agree with much of what you write about but you do write in a convincing manner. I could be called a cynic but I’d prefer to say I am a realist. Damir has the freedom to speak his mind unencumbered by party policy and knows it, as evidenced by his own words that he will not face the responsibility of an elected MLA — at least not in this election.. Unless or until we actually agree to radically reform our political system, and our Parliamentary system, the Damir’s of the world are attractive curiosities who never a hope of being elected.

    1. Pat, you had me at “damned good writer”. 🙂 From you that is a huge compliment, thank you.

      I think things are going to change in the next ten years. Jean’s reflections above are what makes younger voters disregard the process entirely. We don’t trust a word anyone says. Younger people will only vote if there is integrity in a game that allows them to vote for the individual or party who will best represent their interests, not simply following the herd. I predict there will be more colour in the legislature by the time my 6 year old is eligible to vote. If it happens, lucky her.

  5. Interesting! But, now I am even more undecided than before. And, this is the first time I have ever had the privilege to go and vote, so I really want to make it count.

  6. How amazing would it be if voters chose not to vote simply along party lines (even if that’s how their family’s been voting for generations), and instead voted for the individual candidate they thought would best represent them and their community in the legislature? Thank you for inspiring all of us to listen with an open mind, Maeve. Damir wowed me too.

    1. Isn’t that how it used to be, back in the olden days? People voted for their area’s representative—makes sense, yes? Elizabeth May explains a little how this party system all came to be and why it should be changed. It’s a long but informative video in French and English so you will be educated on all levels. 🙂 http://youtu.be/_-y3qYqGPjA

  7. I had a visit from Kerry Davis yesterday and instead of staying and having a slight discourse after my daughter offered to fetch me, he rather chose to shuffle forward and onward. Guess he was running behind. He did, however, leave a very uninformative pamphlet outlining his party’s line. Good grief.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that happened with Kerry. I voted for Peter Dix in the 2008 municipal election because he came to the door and spoke with us. We had just moved here and knew no one so we wouldn’t have voted otherwise. Doorstep visits can make all the difference—even if Mr. Dix didn’t win! 🙂

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