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Editorial: Measuring the Squamish Voices ingredient in the local political cake

Keep your eyes on the local political oven, folks; it is going to be a hot few months ahead.
the_burtons/boiling potSquamish
Squamish politics is like a boiling pot these days.

Squamish politics is never bland.

We can say that much about it.

The last two years have been anything but boring with a recipe that consisted of, among other things, incredible population growth, skyrocketing housing costs, a global pandemic, and a well-funded smear campaign against sitting councillors.

We may well bake a new council in less than six months.

Or, we may find that this current anti-establishment cacophony of strange ingredients — much like the anti-vaccine rallying cry that sounded loud but translated into more of a squeak when you look at COVID-19 immunization stats — doesn’t translate into a new cake at all at the ballot box on Oct. 15.

The reasons folks should be concerned about the anonymous campaign by Squamish Voices go beyond whether this particular council is burned by it.

Former Squamish residents and political researchers Kaija Belfry Munroe and Doug Munroe told The Squamish Chief, this campaign has much broader implications.

“This is a good test case of B.C.’s new elections act, which tries to prevent anonymous third-party political advertising,” said Doug, co-founder of Politikos Research, a social science and public policy research firm.

 “Because the new Act only covers third-party advertising between July 18 and Election Day, the question in my mind is whether or not Squamish Voices suddenly disappears on July 17.”

And if it doesn’t disappear altogether, how will Elections BC handle that?

It will be fascinating to watch as things move from a simmer to a boil as the election nears.

“One of the harmful aspects of negative campaign tactics — tactics that focus on highlighting problems rather than asserting solutions —  is that they generally decrease the health of our democracy,” said Kaija. “People become cynical and less likely to engage positively with their governments. It’s also already very hard to get people to stand as candidates and as aggressive, anonymous campaigns become more common, it will become even harder to recruit candidates — especially women.”  

There are only two women on the current seven-person council, and they are two of the three being broiled by the campaign.

This raises the question of what type of person will run this fall.

Now that the organizers of Squamish Voices have created, to some extent, the chaotic emotional soup they wanted to stir up, what is next? One would assume they aim to put forward particular candidates for council to further their agenda.

Would you want to run and face the prospect of a shadow campaign against you?

Maybe you would if you were a self-important, well-funded wannabe politician with a personal agenda and time to kill.

Not an attractive prospect for locals hoping for more childcare spaces and public transit, one would guess.  

Let’s hope local brave and community and solution-minded folks with an understanding of the issues can still find their way onto the ballot.

A positive outcome that could result from the spicy last two years is a very engaged electorate heading to the polls in droves — lined up to cast their ballots like tourists at a local doughnut shop.

Municipal elections don’t typically see even half of those who are registered cast a ballot. The current council was voted in by 48% of registered voters. (That is worse than the percentage of successful sourdough starters during the lockdown.)

If there is to be any sweet icing on the terrible-tasting nasty pandemic cake of the last two years, let a higher voter turnout be it.

The best thing about democracy is that, in the end, each vote is of equal value, regardless of the bullying, money, power — or lack thereof — behind it.

And that is what makes the upcoming local government elections — like baking without a recipe — so exciting for politicos and journalists.  

Anything can happen.

Keep your eyes on the local political oven, folks; it is going to be a hot few months ahead.

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