By “we” I mean anything or anybody that stood for something that wasn’t going to sell “Supernatural BC” to the highest bidder, that wasn’t going to fill our ports with oil tankers, that wasn’t going to antagonize teachers chafing under terrible classroom conditions of the province’s own making, and that wasn’t going to lie about well, just about anything they could lie about.
Our Premier, BC Liberal Christy Clark, also lost her own riding, but ultimately the loss will be another Liberal MLA’s (an MLA that actually won their seat, but will have to give it up and make way for their smiling-while-she-throws-you-under-the-bus leader). So the BC Liberals won (along with the Harper Government, oil companies, big corporations and a host of other fun and lovable characters), and the rest of us lost. Sigh.
Though I was just about as nauseous and heartbroken as everyone else madly tweeting their disappointment as the results came in (I fired off a couple of snarky tweets on Tuesday night that I’m not particularly proud of), I can’t say in all truthfulness that I was incredibly surprised.
Firstly, of COURSE the polls were wrong. There was always a good chance they would be. Nobody knows what the results of an election will be until the votes are counted. I must admit I was excited by the predictions of a BC NDP government, but as the election neared I knew that nothing was a sure thing. Which is why I voted.
Secondly, for whatever reason, the BC NDP had chosen Adrian Dix as their leader. Dix is courteous and non-threatening and at least he won his riding (unlike the Premier) but he was unfortunately touched by scandal many years ago (it doesn’t matter how minor the scandal, of COURSE your opponents won’t let it rest in a campaign) and he just couldn’t put it behind him. In debates, campaign advertising, and public appearances, his general bearing, at my most generous, could best be described as “awkward”. Paradoxically, Dix was both besmirched by scandal and still incredibly unexciting as a leader to rally behind. I won’t say that he didn’t fight the good fight, but framing your policy initiatives by saying, essentially, “vote for me now, I’ll give you the details later” looks unprepared at best, shady at worst. His leadership may not have been our best bet. Or maybe it was, in which case, the BC NDP needs to do some serious talent hunting.
Thirdly, and most importantly (and what we always seem to forget on the west coast), BC is a big province, and a lot of the people in it do not agree with me. Living in Vancouver has spoiled me–I hardly ever spend time with people whose values differ drastically from mine–and I forget that what is obviously right to me is not obviously right to others. There’s a reason, for example, that communities in the Fraser Valley are not known for their thriving gay scenes. There are reasons that people in land-locked constituencies in the interior may not be as terrified by the spectre of oil spills as the coastal areas that voted NDP are. There are reasons that many people–hit hard by the recession, perhaps, or dependent on a specific industry for their livelihood–would place the economy above all other concerns when voting (whether or not I think the BC Liberals are actually good for the economy in a way that benefits regular BCers instead of powerful corporations notwithstanding). While I would be the first to say that a voter turn-out rate hovering around 50% is an embarrassment, I don’t join many of my fellow disappointed NDP-supporters in suggesting that this is what lost us the election. Basically, that’s the same as suggesting that all the people who DIDN’T vote would have voted NDP. It’s just not true. If these people were NDP voters, they would have voted, and they would have voted NDP. They didn’t vote at all, which means that while they obviously didn’t want to vote for Christy Clark, they didn’t want to vote for Adrian Dix either.
So what now?
Well, there are a couple of positives here, though they are incredibly bittersweet (with “bitter” being the operational half of this compound word). Firstly, if the BC NDP aren’t the government they can’t disappoint me the way governments usually do. I’m not just being bitter here. The issues that mattered the most to me during this election (the proposed Enbridge Pipeline and oil tanker traffic on the BC coast) are not issues over which the Government of BC truly has the control it claims to have. In fact, it seems that contrary to Clark’s claims that Alberta would have to meet certain conditions in order to run oil pipelines through BC, prior to the election, the Premier had already signed agreements with Alberta effectively blocking any level of BC government from trying to prevent the transport of oil through the province. The BC Government also appears to have signed an agreement waiving the province’s right to conduct its own environmental assessment of proposed pipeline projects, choosing instead to defer to the findings of the Harper Government’s oh-so-rigourous-and-definitely-fair review process (they don’t call our Prime Minster Stephen “I love science and evidence-based policy” Harper for nothing). Basically, a BC NDP government would have been bound to this backstabbing agreement with the rest of us, or face millions of dollars in fines. Given our hefty deficit (thanks again, Government of BC!), the province could not have afforded this. Which means that on the issues of dearest importance to me, we never had a chance.
At least not through provincial government channels. Which leads me to another bittersweet conclusion: I should never depend on someone else to be my voice; I can use my voice myself. Obviously, organization is key to getting anything done (which is why I’m not the Supreme Ruler of Everything Lauren but defer to others’ knowledge and abilities when it works for me), but I don’t have to depend on one MLA, or party, or group to be my hero. I can choose to vote for an MLA, I can choose to sign a petition, I can choose to protest, I can choose to share information, I can choose to donate money to causes that are fighting towards something I care about, I can, and do, choose to write this blog.
And it’s bitter, because it’s hard, and realizing that such a huge part of this province and this country does not see the world the way I do makes me incredibly lonely. But it’s sweet, because it means I don’t have to spend the next four years being helpless and hoping that in 2017, for goodness sake’s, the BC NDP will have a strong leader who can convince non-NDP voters that they’re worth their vote, or hoping that by 2017 the BC Liberals will finally have done something so obviously horrible that no one could ever vote for them again, or that by 2017 BC voters, fatigued by both the Liberals and the NDP, will finally vote in a Green Government (which I think would be cool). Waiting for 2017 is depressing, and it won’t work.
Do I want a different election result in 2017? You bet.
But will I save up all my frustration and my worry until then, using a little pencil “X” as my only tool for meaningful action?
No. It’s going to be an uncomfortable and frustrating next four years. But not all of that discomfort and frustration will be on my part. The Premier’s Office will have their share. Buckle up, BC. This is going to be a crazy ride and I have no idea where we’re going.