Well, it is that time again. Silly season is upon us. Opening of the Hill? No, crazy season maybe but not silly season. American Thanksgiving? No, that’s the signal that the winter season is about to get started in earnest. Cornucopia and the Film Festival? Good times, but nothing silly about either event.
Municipal elections are held on the third Saturday of November. The next election will be held on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. So with less than a year to go we are into the silly season for local politics.
Why the silly season? If history is any indication we could expect mayor and council to start grandstanding for votes with impassioned speeches on topics that should hardly make it to the council table. Decisions that need to be made would be deferred for fear of offending constituents. In short, nothing would get done while council appears to be busy but in fact is ducking for cover to maximize their chances of re-election.
History is a touch like statistics — the longer a pattern continues the greater the probability it will happen again. But in my view, the greater likelihood this time around is that council will buck the trend.
The big question in the next 12 months will be whether Mayor Wilhelm-Morden will run again. Sure, there are issues in municipal hall. Access to information continues to be either well firewalled or well managed, depending on whether you are outside trying to get information or inside the hall trying to control the flow of information. Our local government has a very expensive payroll dedicated to controlling the dissemination of information that citizens have the right to know. Questions have arisen as to whether there are conflicts of interest at the staff level.
No matter who is mayor there will always be issues, so the real question is how well those issues are managed. Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden has delivered the style of leadership this community was looking for — understated but very, very effective. If she chose to run again, the town would be lucky to have her.
My prediction, or at least my hope, is that Mayor Wilhelm-Morden will carry on for the next year exactly the way she has for the last two. If she decides to run again then getting re-elected will be the least of her concerns.
Chances are at least one councillor will decide that he or she has made his or her contribution and move on to other challenges. At least one councillor could lose their seat to a spirited challenger, although I wouldn’t bet money on that actually happening. So unless this council surprises us all and decides to step down, I suspect a block of the present councillors will control the next council.
That does not mean the next election will be a non-event. While the candidates may not be hotly debated, the issues ought to be. Should the proposed campus on the Zen lands even be considered when the only response they can give to the question of what happens if it fails is “trust us, it won’t fail?” While the local economy is showing signs of life, it is too early to tell whether this is a real turnaround or a dead cat bounce. Either way, the resort is not performing anywhere near it’s full potential.
The current Mayor and Council promised very little in 2011. The 2014 election will be an opportunity to make sure they do not get a free pass by forcing them to commit to an action plan for the next three-year term.
Nicholas Davies is a litigation lawyer who served on Whistler’s municipal council for six years. Nick divides his life between Whistler (his true love) and Vancouver (his new mistress).