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Winners and losers of Election '05

The election of 2005, summarized in six words: "May you live in interesting times." The ancient Chinese curse (so I've heard it described) says it all to me.

The election of 2005, summarized in six words: "May you live in interesting times."

The ancient Chinese curse (so I've heard it described) says it all to me.

It wasn't supposed to be this interesting here: this was supposed to be the election where we brought an end to the 15-year pendulum cycle of "throwing the bums out" that has typified Squamish politics.

But in the end, it seems the pendulum is still swinging - and three incumbent councillors are left in the dust this week as a result.

If you're keeping score, the odds of getting re-elected to council in Squamish in recent history are a little less than 50 per cent. In the past four elections, the voters have kicked a total of 12 incumbents out, while re-electing only 10 - and that's only counting those who ran for re-election, not those who declined to run again, either for personal reasons or because they saw the writing on the wall before the vote.

So, from one politically-interested perspective, the winners and losers of election 2005:

Corinne Lonsdale steps back into the winners' circle, with her fifth consecutive election victory. After taking a strategic retreat in 2002 from the mayor's seat to council - avoiding the incumbent's sweep in the process, but still placing near the bottom of the elected list - she tops the polls this time around. The Official Opposition is rejuvenated.

Our new councillors, Patricia Heintzman, Mike Jenson and Jeff McKenzie, are not only winners on Saturday but will also determine the direction of this council. Congratulations and watch your step.

Bryan Raiser and Larry McLennan come to the winners' circle from opposite sides. When you come within 40 votes of a council seat, it's a moral victory at the least, and both can claim one. We expect to see both commenting fairly frequently on the new council in these pages in the next three years.

Incumbents Sonja Lebans, Dave Fenn and Jeff Dawson have lost at the polls, but they have won their lives back from the thankless and tiring work of government. Whether you agree with them or not, they have earned our gratitude for their service.

The electorate as a whole loses, not for who they voted for, but for all those who didn't vote. After two great turnouts in the elections of 1999 and 2002, voter participation plunged to a pathetic 44 per cent - the worst since 1996, when voters at least had the excuse of a town-stopping blizzard to explain not going to the polls. If you're disappointed with the result of this election and you didn't vote, go find a mirror to blame.

Mayor Ian Sutherland, despite winning re-election, has lost the majority of his New Directions comrades - a Pyrrhic victory at best. To be fair, Sutherland was in a no-win situation from the start, with only council watchdog Terrill Patterson to oppose him. As a winner, his critics will just call it an empty victory (in fact, one critic does just that today on the letters page) and undermine the legitimacy of his mandate by implying he had no "real" opposition.

If Sutherland and Corinne Lonsdale were on better speaking terms, he might be able to get some perspective on what it's like to win re-election but lose control of council - after all, something similar happened to her back in 1996. But after this campaign and the sparks that flew at this week's wrap up council meeting, we don't see that conversation happening soon.

Squamish New Directions, as an organization, is the biggest loser - a slate whose caucus fits in a two-seater car with nobody in the trunk can't do much. The vote here was clearly against the idea of an organized group in politics putting its ideas together publicly. Apparently the electorate prefers that the alliances and pacts that all elected officials and their supporters make, consciously or otherwise, be formed under the radar.

In short, interesting times.

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