Ballot box defines '08 0
It was a year of economic chaos, listeria hysteria, and the biggest, most controversial Olympics yet. But the newsmaker of the year was the ballot box.
Canadians stayed away in record numbers while Americans flocked to their polls in record numbers.
The result was a bigger Conservative minority and a constitutional crisis in Ottawa. Vision Vancouver city council, parks board and school board majorities. NDP 2 Liberals 0 in provincial byelections and Democrat Barack Obama's historic Nov. 4 election as president of the United States of America.
"The federal election did get lost to some degree, it didn't have quite the same drama that the U.S. election did," said University of B.C. political science Prof. Michael Byers, an unsuccessful NDP Vancouver-Centre candidate. "I don't think anyone could top the symbolism of an African-American winning the White House."
The 62 per cent turnout was high by U.S. standards. Canada's 59.1 per cent was 20 per cent less than the record 1958 turnout. Seven out of 10 Vancouver voters didn't bother Nov. 15 and three-quarters of Vancouver-Burrard and Vancouver-Fraserview voters stayed away.
Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch said low turnout is the product of a false democracy that breeds voter distrust. Politicians, he said, are addicted to misleading the public and the weak laws that exist do little to stop them.
"None of them seem to realize this is the number-one turnoff," Conacher said. "In governments across Canada it is effectively legal to act dishonestly, unethically, secretively and wastefully."
Embattled West Vancouver MP Blair Wilson, denied re-entry to the Liberal caucus, found a new home as the Green Party's first MP for all of one week. Then Prime Minister Stephen Harper thumbed his nose at the Oct. 19, 2009 fixed-election law and convinced Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to allow an Oct. 14 vote.
Six weeks after winning a bigger minority, Harper visited Jean again Dec. 5, to ask for Parliament's recess until late January. The "coo-coo-coup" led by Liberal Stephane Dion threatened a coalition government or another election. Jean sided with Harper. Dion was gone and Michael Ignatieff was in. The crisis is on hold.
Parks board commissioner Spencer Herbert and political newcomer Jenn McGinn's victories for the NDP in the Oct. 29 by-elections reminded Premier Gordon Campbell that a hat-trick in May 2009's provincial election isn't certain.
Gregor Robertson, McGinn's predecessor, now sits in Campbell's old chair at 12th and Cambie because of the Nov. 15 landslide.
NPA mayoralty candidate Peter Ladner's fate was sealed by the Nov. 6 leak of the secret Oct. 14 council meeting that approved a $100 million bailout for struggling Olympic Village developer Millennium. Ladner edged Mayor Sam Sullivan to get the NPA nod in a June 8 NPA convention after Sullivan earlier resisted a challenge. Sullivan paid the price for the 2007 civic workers' strike.
"Juiceman" Robertson's campaign centred on a pledge to end homelessness by 2015. His $173 insufficient SkyTrain fare fine put him on the defensive, but that evaporated when the Millennium salvation was revealed. The ripples continue.
Only five days into the new administration, Robertson fired city manager Judy Rogers and asked KPMG to make sense of the Olympic Village issue.
"I don't think people are generally cynical about politics," a hopeful Michael Byers said. "They want better politicians and they want politicians to behave themselves. But people haven't given up on politics."