To the editor:
Using the results in the Capital News of the byelection, and adding the 5,778 people who voted in the advance poll, the total number of voters in the important Westside-Kelowna byelection was 22,789.
The result means that 50.6 per cent or less voted on July10.
I met many of them when I was working as a volunteer on election day helping to“pull the vote” on election day. It is often done either by phone or on the doorstep in many polls by parties’ leading volunteers.
The non-voters I met indicated they didn’t know who to vote for or they weren’t interested. Some older ones indicated they had never voted and don’t intend to start to vote now—they are totally disinterested in the concept of civic duty or their democratic responsibility. Many were just not interested in the election, or that it had relevance for them.
The days of 70 per cent voter turnouts that I recall in long ago elections, either federal or provincial, have receded into history. We now have a consistent provincial society of low voter turnouts of two cultures.
One half still feels strongly about personality and character, parties and their economic and social issues to be debated to determine the future of our society.
The other half are those who society has failed to either educate or has failed to ensure that our political system is relevant to their lives. It makes no difference to them.
Even in this byelection in one of the most right-wing conservative areas , the New Democrats and Conservative voters got round 36 per cent of the vote against a strong leader, premier and personality who was very successful in garnering 60 per cent of the cast votes. But all three parties failed to entice the other 50 per cent of electors from their homes.
Perhaps many stayed home because they thought the election was already “in the bag” for the premier anyway in this strong Liberal area.
The “first person past the post” system may be the cause. Constituencies are too small to have proportional voting with voters being able to elect more than one member to the legislature to represent them. People feel disenfranchised by the current ‘one winner takes all.’ If the Central Okanagan’s three constituencies were one, then of the three MLAs, two would be Liberal (one being the Premier) and the third seat would be allocated to the party that got almost a third of the vote in all three—the New Democrats.
In most electoral areas there are usually more “loser-voters” than winners. The current system hardly engenders getting out to vote knowing, in advance, its a “wasted vote” if you don’t win. No one believes the myth that the “winner” and her party really will look after their needs and interests.
With a two party system, the degree of agreement and concessions to achieve a balanced approach seldom happens. One party is always wanting to “undo” what the other created. Lucky for British Columbians many successful projects, laws and institutions remain in place for decades and successfully evolve.
John O. Powell,