Homeless in Vancouver: The messy aftermath of a close election

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      The 41st British Columbia general election, held two days ago on May 9th, was a very close thing. Only the B.C. NDP’s razor-thin, nine-vote victory in the Vancouver Island riding of Courtenay-Comox  stands in the way of the incumbent B.C. Liberals forming their fifth straight majority government.

      The provincial Liberals have formally requested a recount of the Courtenay-Comox vote.

      A party needs 44 seats in the B.C. legislature to hold a majority. For the time being, the B.C. Liberals are one shy, having been elected to 43 seats, while the B.C. NDP holds 41 seats and the B.C. Green party holds down 3 seats.

      The absolute final results of the B.C. election will have to wait for the Courtenay-Comox recount and, as well, the counting of absentee ballots—a process that Elections B.C. plans to complete by May 24.

      Of ballot boxes and garbage bags

      Seen through a second-floor window; office furniture and stacks of ballot boxes.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Absentee ballots include all ballots legitimately cast somewhere other than at a voter’s assigned voting place, including those cast through the mail and at one of the 89 temporary district electoral offices set up across the province by Elections B.C.

      One such district electoral office—for the riding of Vancouver-Quilchena—sits in the heart of the Vancouver-Fairview riding, at 1450 West Broadway, just a few doors west of the McDonald’s restaurant where I spend so much time.

      The address is a small two-storey commercial property that has not seen a retail tenant since the end of July 2016, when two long-time lease-holders (a rug dealer on the ground floor and a suntan studio on the second) vacated suddenly.

      Elections B.C. moved into both floors the week before May 9 and now, two days after the vote, there are no people on the premises but signage, office furniture, and tall stacks of ballot boxes can still be seen inside and a considerable mess of garbage has been left out back.

      Obviously all the votes from the general election have to be kept somewhere for a period of time and according to Elections B.C.’s guidelines for supervisory voting officers, after the polls close, it is the job of this election official to deliver voting materials, including sealed ballot boxes to the district electoral office.

      So it’s possible that the ballot boxes which can be seen through the windows are full of voting ballots. In any event, everything is behind lock and key.

      A big pile of garbage left behind the building.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      I’m personally more concerned about the pile of mostly unbagged trash which has been crammed under the stairway to the building’s second floor. The garbage almost looks like it is secured behind a wrought iron enclosure but it actually isn’t.

      Hopefully, Elections B.C. will come back soon and clean up its mess.

      A close-up of some of the Elections B.C. garbage left behind 1450 West Broadway.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      I”m not worried about there being anything “sensitive” for binners to find but I did see McDonald’s coffee cups mixed in with the office paper and packaging, so I won’t be surprised to see the garbage spread all over the alley after someone has gone through it looking for free McCafe coffee stickers, if nothing else.

      It’s unclear what will happen after B.C. Elections vacates but I do not predict a long future for the little 4,658 square-foot property. It has been for lease since last August but according to Macdonald Commercial, 1448-1450 West Broadway has now sold for $2,350,000.

      The large building next door at 1424 West Broadway (occupied by Joey Broadway) has also sold (in 2016) for $19.8 million and the Joey lease expires in 2019. I wouldn’t be surprised if the purchaser of 1424 also snapped up 1448-1450 and I would expect both two-storey properties to be part of one much taller redevelopment.

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.