Letter to Lower Island News (Victoria), November 2002
As the dust settles on Victoria’s municipal election, it is important to consider a bold proposition:
Alan Lowe was beatable.
My campaign won 5047 votes to Alan Lowe’s 9655. As I told our mayor at his victory party on the night of Nov. 16, he ran a strong campaign and was clearly the victor. His campaign workers and his supporters deserve a hearty applause.
But in the interest of understanding and appraising the outcome of the 2002 municipal vote, the question of “unbeatable” Lowe must be addressed.
Voters were barraged with this message, well before the campaign began in early October. The leadership of the Victoria Civic Electors accepted it when they refused to endorse my candidacy. The organizers of numerous “All-Candidates” Meetings confirmed it when they refused to allow debate on the mayoralty race. Throughout the campaign, I had only one opportunity to debate social issues with Mayor Lowe. Television and radio stations made no effort to broadcast such a debate over their airwaves.
Indeed, the powers that be declared Alan Lowe victorious the moment he put his name forward last July. My nomination was branded ‘fringe’, and any substantive discussion of my election platform was kept outside the media spotlight.
But defying this subversion of the democratic process, 5047 Victorians voted for a socially and environmentally responsible community. I suppose that makes one-third of local voters ‘fringe’.
In Vancouver, where left-wingers united behind the Coalition of Progressive Electors slate headed by mayor-elect Larry Campbell, the conservative ‘Non-Partisan’ Association was swept out of power. COPE won every council, school board and parks boards position it contested. A coalition of the NDP and radical leftist groups, COPE directed the anger against the Campbell Liberals into a stunning electoral success.
In Victoria, such a victory wasn’t to be. In five weeks, my independent campaign – headed by three 24-year-old rabble rousers – garnered the support of the labour movement, environmentalists, and hundreds of individuals who had never voted before. With one month’s organization, we nearly equaled the vote of the last two left-wing mayoral candidates, and surpassed David Turner’s 1990 victory by over 1000 votes. So much for a ‘fringe’ campaign.
Had the Left united in Victoria, COPE’s stunning Vancouver victory could have been replicated on this Island. Voter turnout in the mainland city spiked to over 50 per cent, a remarkable showing for a municipal campaign. In Victoria, only 17,000 people – less than one-third of the registered voters – cast a ballot on Nov. 16. Of these, two-thirds voted for Alan Lowe. In terms of eligible voters, about 15 per cent voted our Mayor into office. When 50,000 citizens stay away from the polls on election day, something is clearly wrong with our political system.
I want to make it clear that I congratulate Alan Lowe on his decisive victory. But I ask the organizations that declared him “unbeatable”: What have you done for democracy?