Editorial: Change is in the air

Trent Ernst, Editor

Outside the window of my office, there has been a pile of snow, which grew to cover the bike rack. The pile started over six solid months ago, and only on April 26 did the last chunk of ice melt, leaving a pile of dirt and sodden leaves, which are slowly drying in the warm air.

It has been nearly seven months since the first snowfall of the season, making it one of the longest winters in recent memory.

But that pile of snow is now gone, and while there are still patches of winter remaining, we are in a time or transition as spring, long held back by an obstinate winter reluctant to leave, rushes in to make the most of the few weeks it has before we officially proclaim it summer.

As the transition is being made, the wind sweeps in, picking up six month’s worth of sand on the road and sending it airborne, creating miniature sandstorms in the Shop Easy parking lot, bringing with it the scents of spring.

And what is that other smell? It smells like change. Yes, it most certainly is the winds of political change, blowing across the province, stirring up the South Peace. Things must change here. There is no choice. Our previous MLA, Blair Lekstrom, has decided not to run, and so even if a Liberal is elected here, it will not be the same Liberal. Things change. It is the one constant in life: nothing is constant.

Well, one thing is constant: voter turnout in this area is consistently among the lowest in the province. In 2009, Peace River South had the third lowest voter turnout at 44 percent. Only Peace River North and Richmond Centre had lower turnouts, percentage-wise. Since 1991, voter turnout has declined 26 percent.

44 percent works out to 7,611 people. Which should get all you folks who say “why bother, it doesn’t change anything, anyway” to give your head a shake. When so few people turn out to vote, each vote cast does make a difference. In 2009, Blair won for the Liberals with 63 percent of the vote. But if a mere 1373 people had cast their votes the other way, the results would have been different.

And in 2013, the pundits are predicting a far closer race. Lots of people voted for Blair because he was Blair, not because he was the Liberal candidate. This year, nobody is going in with that amount of personal cachet and relationships with the voters, so the results promise to be a lot closer. And don’t forget the whole “splitting the right” factor with both a Liberal and Conservative running, leaving the middle open for an NDP run up the middle, metaphorically. Heck, if Tumbler Ridge decided to block vote for any one Candidate, we could probably get them elected by dint of numbers. It isn’t that there are so many of us, it’s just that there’s so few people who decide to vote.

Of course, that won’t happen. The turnout for our last by-election was even more abysmal, with less than ten percent of eligible voters heading for the polls. Yes, it was just a by-election, but the less we participate in the democratic process, the less we are likely to participate. It’s simple inertia.

Speaking of things not changing, this is the part where I start to harangue you, telling you to get out and vote. In two weeks will be the obligatory editorial on how voter turnout was again disappointing. It is part of the great circle of (political) life.

I’m right there with you. I’m not a big fan of politics the way they currently stand. I believe that there must be a way to run a country that isn’t based on political bullying, backstabbing and ballyhoo. Something that’s, I don’t know, based on dialogue and discussion, rather than posturing and pontificating.

But at the same time, this is my time to participate in the democratic process, flawed though it may be, and I will participate. Because if I don’t, what right do I have to complain?