The results of Saturday’s civic election in White Rock and Surrey raise questions – but also offer a reminder of a clear certainty.
In White Rock, the return of incumbent mayor Wayne Baldwin to office (nearly doubling the tally of challenger David Bradshaw) was no great surprise, any more than the secure position of incumbent councillors Helen Fathers, Grant Meyer and Bill Lawrence – none of whom had set enough of a foot wrong with voters to experience a backlash.
Unseated incumbent Alan Campbell had, however, incurred noticeable ire among some residents – which may have cost him, alongside credible campaigns mounted by Megan Knight, Lynne Sinclair and David Chesney. Knight has run for office before; erstwhile councillor Sinclair is anything but an unknown quantity; and frequent candidate and online commentator Chesney is also familiar to those who pay attention to the civic scene.
Some may see the new White Rock council as having a majority in favour of development density, but, in light of the personalities involved, it is hard to imagine the business of the city being conducted without lively debate.
But can the same be said of Surrey, where a sweep by mayoral candidate Linda Hepner and her Surrey First team appears to be a ringing endorsement of the regime of retiring mayor Dianne Watts?
The result must certainly be disappointing, not only to her fellow mayoralty frontrunners – albeit far from the front itself – but also to anyone hoping for more openly debated leadership.
The question of whether the voice of a single group – no matter how non-partisan its membership claims – can accurately encompass the concerns of all residents seems still as valid as it was during Watts’ term as mayor.
And voters must now ask, where will the counterbalancing voice of dissent come from?
As well, the result certainly call into question the value of polls that, on the eve of election, had Hepner, Doug McCallum and Barinder Rasode running neck and neck and neck. How scientific can such polls be when, on election night, Hepner equalled the votes of her six opponents combined?
Of just one thing there can be little question; with a turnout of 34 per cent in White Rock and 35 per cent in Surrey, only a third of eligible voters made their wishes known. If others are dissatisfied with what transpires over the next four years, they can console themselves with the knowledge that by failing to use their votes, they turned them over to the winning candidates.