Low turnout in B.C. reflects the monstrous choice facing voters

Editorials Opinions

As we sat down and wrote this editorial on May 9 (you say last minute, we say as up-to-date as possible), B.C. headed to the polls.

Or at least some of B.C. did. Voter turnout was low: estimated at approximately 55 per cent at press time.

There will no doubt be plenty of analysis published over the next few days that will ask the all-important questions that we hear every time there’s an election. Why didn’t people vote? How do we engage the youth? Why is nobody reading my think piece?

The three choices facing B.C. voters in the 2017 election. Illustration by Graphics Contributor Leone Brander.
The three choices facing B.C. voters in the 2017 election. Illustration by Graphics Contributor Leone Brander.

Consider those questions answered by your friendly neighborhood youth at the Martlet. Why did nobody care about this election? Because all three major candidates and their parties left us disenchanted and uninspired. Voters were left with an unfavourable choice — almost like picking between the heads of a hydra by which to be eaten.

First, all three parties refused to seriously talk about some incredibly topical (and even life-threatening) issues. The fentanyl crisis — arguably the most deadly and pressing issue in British Columbia right now — was largely ignored for much of the election cycle by all three major parties, despite recent reports that 922 people died from illicit drug overdoses in 2016.

All talk about the housing situation in B.C. was ineffective at best and sterilized at worst, with platform solutions like $400 yearly rebates (enough to cover maybe half a month’s worth of rent) not worth much when people can’t find places to begin with. And while building new homes is obviously important, it doesn’t do much to help people who can’t afford an apartment rental (or a mortgage, heaven forbid) now.

And every single party was guilty of promising to make plans to make plans — vague and noncommittal assurances that do anything but.

The B.C. Liberals weren’t great — it’s impossible to take a party seriously when they refuse to show up to any Q&A sessions or debates, and spend the election hiring buses with mean things written on them to follow people around.

With that said, it’s also impossible to take the other two parties seriously when that approach actually works. NDP and Green Party supporters spent all election bickering at one another — a strategy that was less endearing and more embarrassing for any undecided voter.

If nothing else, the closeness of this race demonstrates a blatant lack of consensus among voters. At 11:40 pm, for example, the status of the Courtenay-Comox riding was riding on nine votes. Nine. If one party leader had stood out to British Columbians as the obvious choice, we wouldn’t still be in our newsroom at midnight waiting for final votes to trickle in.

No matter the eventual outcome (at the time of writing, it looks like we’re getting a minority government), all parties should heed this indecisiveness. If a Liberal government is formed, they should realize the slim margins by which they won and actively work with the NDP and Greens to create policy that reflects the values of the 58.9 per cent of voters who did not elect them.

We need diverse candidates who are relatable to younger demographics, and who bring fresh ideas to improve the quality of life of British Columbians. A clear, coherent vision for the future of British Columbia and its citizens is vital. We want platforms that align with current issues, and that offer substantive, tangible steps towards change (and, better yet, with an accompanying budget).

We at the Martlet really do believe it’s important to vote, but we’d also really appreciate it if we had parties that actively tried to present clear solutions. It’s not enough to expect a vote for a party, and it’s one of the reasons why just under half the province didn’t vote at all (or so it seems, so far).

When it’s a choice between a three-headed B.C. hydra or nothing, you can see why some opt to choose the latter.