Mayors' landslide victories sow the seeds for corruption, arrogance, and less democracy

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      Something very peculiar happened across the Lower Mainland last night.

      With the exception of Langley Township, incumbent mayors were easily reelected in every municipality.

      The margins of victory were staggering. In Surrey, Dianne Watts took 80 percent of the ballots and defeated second-place finisher Ross Buchanan by 49,559 votes.

      Burnaby's Derek Corrigan had 76 percent support and won by 19,603 votes over Tom Tao.

      The City of North Vancouver's mayor, Darrell Mussatto, took 73.8 percent of the vote. In the nearby District of North Vancouver, Richard Walton captured 81.5 percent, which was an even higher margin of victory than Watts achieved in Surrey.

      New Westminster's Wayne Wright won in a landslide, more than doubling the vote total of his nearest competitor, James Crosty. In Coquitlam, Richard Stewart won in a walk with 57 percent of the vote against three-term councillor Barrie Lynch, who was seen as a strong challenger.

      In comparison, Gregor Robertson's annihalation (by 18,853 votes) of the NPA's Suzanne Anton in Vancouver was one of the closest mayoral races in the region. Robertson only took 53.8 percent of all votes cast for mayor.

      Look no further than Richmond, where Malcolm Brodie was reelected with 69.8 percent of the mayoral votes. In Port Coquitlam, Greg Moore was reelected with 74.4 percent. Maple Ridge mayor Ernie Daykin cruised to victory with 59.9 percent support. And across the river in the City of Langley, Peter Fassbender won with 71.4 percent of the votes.

      One of the closest contests wasn't close at all. In Delta, Lois Jackson was reelected with 43.2 percent of the vote; her nearest competitor, former councillor Krista Engelland, trailed with just 26.5 percent. A third candidate, Coun. Heather King, won 23 percent.

      The rise of powerful mayors raises new questions for the state of our municipal democracies. When they form slates in the larger cities—such as in Vancouver, Surrey, and Burnaby—their coattails are long enough to elect every candidate along with them.

      Powerful electoral machines like Vision Vancouver, Surrey First, and the Burnaby Citizens Association get stronger with each election. That's because they attract more donations, which give them greater resources to identify their supporters and persuade them to get out and vote.

      That's one reason why we saw increasing turnout even though the mayoral elections weren't even close. In Vancouver, an additional 20,538 people voted in 2011 compared to 2008. In Surrey, an extra 8,288 people showed up at the polls. In Burnaby, the turnout rose by 3,560.

      This presents a difficult challenge for the opposition, whether they're on the right in Burnaby, on the left in Surrey, or on both the right and left in Vancouver with the NPA and COPE.

      Who is going to want to volunteer to run for mayor in these municipalities, knowing they'll likely get slaughtered? And if the opposition parties field weak mayoral candidates—or no mayoral candidate at all—they won't have a chance of generating media coverage or much excitement among their own supporters, let alone campaign contributions.

      The mayors' growing political power also puts them in a position where they can select candidates on their slates, rather than having their parties undergo a nomination process.

      The Surrey First slate decided to invite veteran councillor Marvin Hunt into the tent without a nomination meeting. Vision Vancouver operatives selected former party director Tony Tang to run for council rather than let the members make the choice. Both are now on council.

      The mayors' increasing clout is a vexing problem and, to a certain extent, mirrors the growing centralization of political power in the offices of premiers and the prime minister.

      If this trend continues, it's a recipe for more arrogance and possibly more corruption at the municipal level of government. Let's hope that this issue gets more attention in the years to come.

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      Nov 20, 2011 at 11:37am

      Speaking only in regard to Vancouver where I live: Perhaps, people are simply happy with Gregor and Vision's job done to date.

      The Straight is beginning to sound like the rants from the National Post...dump the hyperbole please...


      Nov 20, 2011 at 11:39am

      funny, this is the election that affects us most and so few vote. We are no less sheep than our american neighbors


      Nov 20, 2011 at 11:45am

      So now winning by a large majority is a problem. Sheesh.

      rod e

      Nov 20, 2011 at 11:46am

      the people have spoken but the author is disappointed...


      Nov 20, 2011 at 11:58am

      If voters are unhappy with the parties that are running their city they will vote against them. This article has little or no praise for the amount of people who came out to vote, which was what everyone was complaining about in federal elections!


      Nov 20, 2011 at 11:58am

      here in burnaby we respect Mayor Corrigan and his outspokeness,
      life is good here, must drive the developers nuts that working peoples interests come first. Thank you BCA.

      Maybe we just realize he is right for the job?


      Nov 20, 2011 at 12:12pm

      I've said it before and I'll say it again. In this country, People will complacent to almost anything! Nobody complains really - not seriously complain walk to the street protest complain. But they sure will tell you off if you dare to say anything bad about Canada while they continuously chanting Canada is the best country in the world, or Vancouver is the best city in the world. I've been to many countries in the world, and I've never heard people from these countries (except maybe Taiwan) will constantly tell people they are the best in the world. And my point is; it's not surprising at all the guy will get re-elected in a landslide cause I bet most people didn't even know the election has occurred!

      Charlie Not

      Nov 20, 2011 at 12:22pm

      wow, bitter and angry rant from aging perpetual loser!

      can you start off the week less of a douche, likely not, feel sorry for anyone that has to spend even a moment in your vicinity

      Terry Martin

      Nov 20, 2011 at 12:25pm

      Money usually wins elections,that sets up a system of inequality.We need electoral reform if we are to have a truly democratic system in vancouver.With a wards like system,campaigns are much smaller and far less expensive.When we take the big money out of politics we have a much truer form of democracy and the assurance of far less corruption in our government. One other thing that we need to adress is the campaign advertising in many of our schools.Campaign posters should not be allowed in public buildings.Many of our schools had vision vancouver posters in them,placed by partisan teachers to "reach" parents of students.Our schools are for educating students,not for political campaignsto influence parents..


      Nov 20, 2011 at 12:30pm

      So increased voter turn out with voters choosing to keep the incumbant because they are genuinly happy is bad for democracy???