The civic elections are over, the signs, at least most of them, have been put away and now we can get back to whatever passes for normal around city hall.
Mayor-elect Nicole Read ran a superb campaign and deserves credit for her victory, but we shouldn’t forget to also congratulate the other mayoral and council candidates, particularly outgoing mayor Ernie Daykin.
One of the flaws in our election system in the lack of a need for a majority to achieve victory in mayoral campaigns. What we have is a first-across-the-finish-line-wins-the-contest system, whether or not they have a majority. Such is the case in Read’s victory.
She received the support of just a little more than one-third of the eligible voters who were bothered enough to get to the polls. She received more votes than any of the other candidates, but not a majority. This is called a plurality and supersedes the old maxim that, in a democracy, the majority rules.
When you take into account the 31 per cent turnout of eligible voters, Read actually received the support of just over ten per cent of the eligible voters. It was enough to win, but it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. It says even less about the campaigns of the unsuccessful candidates, although it’s apparent that Mike Morden and Daykin paid the price for being incumbents in an election year during which there was such a strongly expressed desire for change.
Now Read must move ahead as she faces the challenge of fulfilling her major campaign promises of greater transparency in council business and dealing with the homelessness, crime, drugs and prostitution problems which plague not only the downtown area, but other neighbourhoods in Maple Ridge.
Another tough challenge will be Read’s promise to review budgets and staffing levels at city hall. It sounds simple, but I’m sure she is already aware of how entrenched and comfortable Maple Ridge’s bureaucracy has become over the years due to the benign neglect of past councils.
With the re-election of incumbents Bob Masse and Corisa Bell and the return to council of Craig Speirs and Gordy Robson, and the election of newcomers Kiersten Duncan and Tyler Shymkiw, Read won’t be alone in tackling these problems, particularly with the expressed desire for greater transparency in council business.
I think the far greater challenge all council members will face is the nagging issues of homelessness, prostitution and drug addiction, the solution to all of which must include serious funding participation by senior levels of government.
It is no longer sufficient or acceptable to have the Caring Place look after the homeless by simply throwing a foam mattress on the floor for someone to sleep on and then booting them out the following morning. Many of these people have fallen through the cracks of mental health care programs and are now left on the doorstep of city hall for local taxpayers to look after.
The ink will scarcely be dry on her inauguration papers before Read will have to become engaged in the Gordian knot of TransLink funding, an issue which probably can’t be resolved to the satisfaction of anyone who doesn’t commute or use transit. The provincially mandated referendum on transit funding will take place in the spring of 2015, not much time to come up with a position acceptable to even the 31 per cent of eligible voters who supported her in the election.
Even if some of us didn’t vote for her, we must now all get behind Read’s efforts to deal successfully with these major problems. Until she proves otherwise, Read deserves our support.
Anything less is not appropriate.
Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.