Common wisdom says that in municipal elections, name recognition wins. The logic continues to suggest that because incumbents are well known, they are most likely to be the victors.
Clearly, common wisdom doesn't apply to Squamish politics. In last week's municipal election, three incumbents fell, which seems only to confirm a trend that has gripped the town for at least the past four elections.
In '96, the "gang of four" came riding into power; they were trounced in '99 and replaced by "the old guard" who, on the whole, bailed before New Directions took over in '02.
Much of this turnover is probably a result of the polarized nature of the community and its changing face over the past decade. In Squamish, it seems, we don't vote for anyone, we vote against those we supported before. As one ex-councilor said, "It's easy the first time. They don't have anything to hate you for yet."
But, maybe, things can be seen a little differently after this election. Of the three new councillors, at least two appear sympathetic to SND. So this time, maybe the town was not voting against the overall philosophy of council. People were not so much unhappy with the direction of the council as they were with New Directions. It's pretty clear that there was a strong "anti-slate" sentiment, but the vote doesn't reflect the wholesale change that we've seen in every recent election.
There are some warnings to be taken from the results. Mayor Sutherland won, but once the 412 electors who apparently did not vote for a mayor are factored in, his total is less than 50 per cent. If that protest non-vote parked with Mr. Patterson, he might have found himself cycling to Muni Hall as Mayor-elect. There are also only about 100 votes separating the sixth council spot from the 12-place finisher. In effect, anyone of those seven candidates could have gotten in.
The turnout was abysmal and that may have affected the results. If the day hadn't been so nice, if people were less complacent, or if there was a "wedge" issue, those last three council spots could have been filled by different people.
In many ways the council is still "progressive," and I think it's fair to say that it will have to be more responsive to the electorate than some of the past incarnations.
It may be that Squamish has seen its last big swing for a while, and just for that reason, I think we should all be pleased.