The Merritt civic elections threw the electorate a few surprises Saturday night. The low turnout in voters came as no surprise.
I don’t think anybody expected Mayor Susan Roline to defeat veteran Merritt politician Bob Baird by the margin she did. With no standout platforms, not much mudslinging, and no scandals, the two looked to be pretty even. Roline accomplished a lot in her first term as mayor and also had to deal with a lot of controversy over decisions her council made. Roline was fortunate enough to sail into the month of November on the coattails of some timely economic announcements in the area. And with her adequate defence of some recent controversial city projects, Roline was looking like she would battle Baird down to the last vote.
Baird, a four-term mayor and four-term councillor from Merritt city councils past, had his impressive experience and fiscally conservative principles to rely on. He thought his past record would be enough to convince a more diverse electorate than when he last served in office. As a result, his lacklustre campaign didn’t reach newer Merrittonians or those voters with short memories. In the end, Roline won by 300 votes, a large number for a town the size of Merritt and for the amount of active voters. Roline received 1,030 to Baird’s 727.
Another surprise was the voting out of Shelley Sanders. In 2008, Sanders was the most popular choice, receiving the highest amount of votes next to only Roline. This time around, she was voted out by one vote. She received 916 votes while Alastair Murdoch received 917 for the final sixth spot on council.
As expected, Sanders called for a recount Monday to make sure the count was accurate. Unfortunately for her, the recount produced the same result.
But the biggest story of the 2011 municipal elections was lower voter turnout. Voter apathy plagues all levels of government in this country but none as much as municipalities. I have to question newly elected mayor Susan Roline’s comments that the community had spoken. Voter turn out was a dismal 32 per cent this election, down from 38 per cent in 2008. Far less than half of the community has spoken.
English philosopher Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.” Replace “evil” with “certain governments” and you quickly realize why bad or unpopular governments seem to often get elected.
Perhaps a bigger change in the municipal government last Saturday would have been better for the taxpayers, if only to keep the local government on its toes, afraid of the electorate, and in line. There were only two changes on council with Clara Norgaard and Norm Brigden.