Down the Highway

Everyone has the right to do with their vote as they choose.

“Tonight, we have received a mandate from the people of British Columbia,” said Christy Clark once it was clear that the B.C. Liberals would form a fourth majority government.

While her claim is true, it glosses over two facts. First, when you look at the popular vote you find a more even distribution of voters across the spectrum that runs from Liberal to NDP.

Is there really a third alternative? Everyone has the right to do with their vote as they choose, but under our electoral system, it’s hard to see some votes as anything more than simply thrown away.

In some ridings, votes cast for fringe candidates probably resulted in the election of a candidate who holds completely opposing views to what the voter had in mind when he or she cast a ballot. But electoral reform is a debate for idealists, and they are in a different room these days.

Idealists (insert your own personal favourite ‘-ist’ or ‘-ism’ here) these days find themselves camped around the second issue that the election results gloss over.

The final vote does not reflect the discontent felt by some/many First Nations voters in Northern B.C. who will probably become more galvanized against the natural gas pipeline development the Liberal government committed itself to during its election run.

It is impossible to know how the vote was cast along ethnic, religious, or indigenous lines. ‘Some’ and ‘many’ are just words a person uses to express his or her own preference for how a group of people might feel when no clear mandate from that group exists.

What remains to be seen is how First Nations will reconcile the groundswell of citizen opposition to the decisions of their own elected councils.

This isn’t to cast the pipeline situation as a grassroots indigenous position versus a clear majority of non-indigenous voters. The situation is not all that different with voters in general. In Prince Rupert, Jennifer Rice won the North Coast riding for the NDP. Rice was never shy about her opposition to any kind of oil pipeline across the Northwest. She also premissed her support for natural gas pipelines upon clear support from First Nations and the rest of her constituency.

In fact, all three Northwest ridings voted for NDP representation. If you ignore the vote splitting on the right, you could be forgiven for believing that in the Northwest there is a unified voice against oil, and a strong tone of caution regarding natural gas.

If you look at the vote count, you’ll find Northwest B.C. to be very fractured when it comes to the everyday person’s position on oil and natural gas. Those fracture lines tend to follow lines of economic and environmental impact.

One natural gas pipeline is already in the early stages of construction up here, and the provincial majority does, at least on the surface, send the signal that B.C. is ready for business, or at least, that it’s business as usual.

I doubt anyone will accuse me of being even remotely displeased with the election results, but I’d wager that the discontent felt by many voters over the outcome of this election will not fade and will only increase.