Voting with Joy in Maple Ridge

Voting should be fun. It’s a serious responsibility but I think we take it too seriously.

Ernie Daykin
Craig Speirs

For example, Ernie Daykin and Craig Speirs are running for Mayor of Maple Ridge. They would both be good, but I feel a certain pressure to endorse one or the other. I could let this dilemma stress me out, or I could celebrate the fact that we have two strong choices for Mayor. It’s a good problem to have.

Of course, even while we’re being positive, we should not ignore the temptation to vote negatively–I mean against someone. I could vote for Ernie or Craig based on who I think more likely to defeat someone else I don’t support. It’s no fun, and it discourages people from voting, but it’s a reality in our current first-past-the-post system. (That’s my plug for voting for Proportional Representation in the referendum this fall. Check out Fair Vote Canada for more info.)

Find out where and how to vote by clicking here.

Maple Ridge City Council -vote for up to 6 Councillors

Now, let’s get back to the positivity. On City Council this time we have a lot of turnover (Kiersten Duncan is running again which is good) so we can elect a lot of new faces. Yay! Let’s choose some good new people.

Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows School Board -vote for up to 5 Trustees

Our School Board choices are similar. It would be good to keep some experienced trustees, but there’s only one remaining, Mike Murray!  Fortunately, he is also a good trustee, so that’s an easy vote. Otherwise, I’m voting for Elaine Yamamoto but I don’t know who else, yet. That’s three more people I need to choose. Wheee!

Take the pressure off.

You’ve heard that, out of the three levels of Canadian government, Civic Elections have the most impact on your life. It strikes me that they can also feel the most overwhelming. Too many names and no parties to help us categorize them!

Does it feel like you can’t make an informed choice? Many people do and, as a result, many don’t vote. In 2014, only 31.26% of eligible voters turned out. Most of those people probably take the time to research the candidates, but I suspect a lot of them turn out over one particular issue–a concern or fear–and vote for people promising action on that file. It’s not a good way to pick well-rounded and collaborative decision-makers.

To put it simply, in 2014 only about 10% of the people on the voters’ list (about 5600 people) were needed to elect our Mayor. What I worry about is that if one of the candidates this time around manages to convince 5600 people that we had better build a wall around the city, they could win. Scary thought.

I don’t think the antidote to this is to make people feel guilty about not voting. I think we need to lighten the load. Let’s see if we can make choosing fun.

Oo! I know! How about Real change?! Real change is super fun! But not that Real Change that the same old people keep promising, but real real change delivered by really different people with different backgrounds. Let’s see what some really different councils could look like. How about this one:

The “Diversity is our Strength” Council

This is the council for anyone who wants to see some colour at City Hall. The fact is, current and past councils have been awfully…er…white. We know that the best way for any organization to address concerns of a diverse community is for that diversity to be represented in its leadership. With that in mind, vote for these fine people:

That’s Peter Tam, Onyeka Dozie, Bhupinder Johar and Kevin Priebe. (I’m including Kevin because, even though he is rather pale in colour, he uses a wheelchair to get around). What a great set of perspectives! Simplistic approach? Yes! But what an easy way to choose people who’s life experience is very likely to include compromise and overcoming obstacles!

The “Diversity is Our Strength” School Board

Let’s look at the trustee candidates. Oh, dang, everybody looks pretty white except:

That’s Colette Trudeau (Metis) and Elaine Yamamoto (her grandparents were Japanese pioneers in this area). I guess we need to encourage more visible minorities to run for stuff!

Does voting on the basis of appearance seem weird to you? Think of it this way. It’s been shown that employers tend to hire people who are similar to themselves. As voters, we are essentially on a big hiring committee. Let’s consciously hire for diversity to broaden the quality of discussions at the table.

The “Smash the Patriarchy” Council

This is the council for those who recognize that 50% of us are female and that ratio has never been expressed in our local government. We’re learning more and more about the obstacles women face and how much harder and more cooperatively they have to work to get anywhere. Can we make an all-female council? Why not? There are a bunch of more-than-qualified women running:

Hmm, that’s more than enough. Unfortunately, you can only choose 6. Check out their details by clicking on their names here: Chris Bossley, Susan Carr, Judy Dueck, Kiersten Duncan, Rysa Kronebusch, Chelsa Meadus and Elizabeth Taylor.

The “Smash the Patriarchy” School Board –you get that “the patriarchy” is not the same as “men”, right? The patriarchy is a system that oppresses both men and women. Electing a Council and School Board made up entirely of women will not oppress men, but it could shift things for the better.

Aside from the fact it would be good to keep Mike Murray as the only incumbent trustee, we could elect 5 women to the School District 42 Board. Then it would be up to Pitt Meadows to supply the other 2. Here are the Maple Ridge female candidates:

I’m totally serious about this! Go ahead, vote for these people! They’ll probably do a great job! What other criteria can we hit? How about…

The Well-educated Council

This is the council for people who think having a higher education matters. These people understand that objective truth exists and that sometimes you have to vote for stuff that isn’t popular because the research is showing a clear path. Hopefully they can also articulate to the general public what they learn from experts and build a consensus in the community.

This “Council” was more challenging for me to put together. Many candidates have little post-secondary education and what they had I had to dig for. Don’t get me wrong, a degree does not a councilor make. Ernie and Craig, for example, have served many years on Council or as Mayor without initials after their names.

*please note that I am respectfully leaving off candidates that I think are problematic for other reasons. Having a degree does not automatically make you a good candidate IMHO.

The Well-Educated School Board

Here are the candidates for School Board who, as near as I can tell, have some higher education. If you like that sort of thing.

The new faces here are Mike Murray (incumbent), Gord McCallum and Mark Bailey.

The Long-Serving Council

This is the Council for you if you value people who have demonstrated service to the community over the long-term. Dueck served on Council and School Board, Carr on School Board and others in various community organizations, some for decades.

The two new faces here are Don Mitchell and Ryan Svendsen.

The Long-Serving School Board

Here are the people running for School Board who list some long-term contributions to the district:

The “Sign Planter” Council and School Board

This council is made up of the names that you see most often on signs planted all over town. The idea is that if a name flashes in front of your face a lot, you will remember it and put a check next to it on October 20th.

You can do your own research for this one, because I think this is a bad way to cast your vote. Buying signs and putting them up requires virtually no interaction with people. There is no way for us to tell if the name on the sign belongs to someone who can hold a reasoned discussion with anyone, let alone persuade a fellow Council or Board member to their point of view.

The “Ignore James because he is Reverse-Racist and Reverse-Sexist” Council

This is the Council for people who have noticed that most of the names I’ve mentioned are women, people of colour, or both. This is the #backlash council. The #notallmen council. I support you if you really want to go that way. It’s your vote, just be conscious about it. I’m just playing averages.

Certainly, not all of the names I have omitted are bad candidates, but we can’t ignore the times we’re living in. The challenges people face who are not white, male and able-bodied are becoming more and more clear and, in my humble opinion, it is just easier for a white male to work up the courage to run for office. On average we have suffered less disappointment. We are listened to more and given the benefit of the doubt more. When we step out of our comfort zone we are applauded. When we take our baby and our toddler shopping with us people think it’s the most amazing thing even though it is normal, average parenting.

In 2014 I decided to run for School Board with just two months to go before the election. Somebody suggested I would be a good trustee, I thought about it, and decided to run. Even starting late, 3206 people voted for me and I’m very grateful for their support. I know I would have done a good job; however, if I had won I think I would have felt that I didn’t really earn it. In the faces and profiles of many of the candidates that I haven’t mentioned, I see reflections of that. For many of them, I can’t say that they would do a bad job, but maybe they need to fail this time so they can be better next time.

When you look at the women running please remember that they are stepping up with full knowledge of the abuse and harassment Mayor Nicole Read endured while she was in office. It wasn’t boys being boys; it was the patriarchy asserting its power. We will all benefit when the patriarchy is finally smashed to pieces. How many excellent female candidates considered running for Mayor but then said “uhh, nope” as they watched Mayor Read and her family go through hell? Let’s at least support the ones running for Council and School Board.

Or, as Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted yesterday:

I don’t mean to put down the male candidates who stepped up just like I did, but I’m also pretty sure they don’t need my support. They will get support from many people who don’t read my blog. To them I say it is not our fault that, as white men, we risk being mistaken for those who look like us but who are still drinking the patriarchal kool-aid, but that gives us all the more reason to fight it. You know the men I’m talking about. I’m talking about the men who aspire to be on…

The “MMRGA” (Make Maple Ridge Great Again) Council

Yes, one of the Mayoral Candidates (not Ernie or Craig) actually said that.

This council is for people who are sick and tired fed up had it up to here enough’s enough this has gone on long enough it’s just common sense god damn it I’m going to run for council and clean up this here town! They believe that Anita’s Place Tent City is the cause of all property crime, needles and condoms on playgrounds and disgusting displays of human misery and the RCMP needs to damn well do their jobs and if you let the BC government construct a modern, purpose-built facility to house and support our homeless citizens why then crime and drug addiction will go up, not down, and drug addicts will smell the enabling in the air as far away as Winnipeg and make their way, zombie-like, to Maple Ridge, BC–never mind what the highfalutin experts say!

Now, of course, I’m unfairly paraphrasing the sentiments of the most extreme social media posts and comments, but you can see watered-down versions in some Council candidates’ platforms. (I would  bet that fewer candidates for School Board want to MMRGA. Just a hunch.)

It should be clarified that no candidate supports the existence of the Anita’s Place camp. Nobody is calling for its continued existence. Nobody is happy that people are living in tents like refugees with all the social problems, including property crime and drug use that go along with it. Nobody. Candidates differ only on what should be about the root causes that lead to homeless camps.

The idea that providing a facility where homeless citizens can be clean and dry all day is “enabling” their struggles with addiction is code for “they should pull themselves up by their boot straps first”. Never mind the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

The idea that the RCMP are lacking support from Council to make arrests ignores the fact that police do not take direction from City Hall.

The idea that “enforcing laws” and being “tough on crime” is a big change or “180 degree turn” is ridiculous. These candidates are advocating the status quo. They are traditionalists who want to keep trying the same tactics: criminalizing drug addiction and minor related crimes and driving marginalized   people with their inconvenient problems into the nooks and cracks of our community. This is not new–we’ve never really tried anything else!

The loudest and most-organized candidate touting this backwards agenda has sat on city council before. He ought to know better, but he keeps repeating that he wants to “enforce our laws” to protect us from “crime” even though a Mayor doesn’t direct criminal investigations. It’s either willful ignorance or deliberate misleading of the public. I chatted with him at a meet & greet in 2014 and he told me point-blank that all politicians are crooks. I thought, “You want to be head crook? What?” You don’t expect this kind of person to take you in a new direction. He’ll take you where ever he damn well pleases, thank you very much.

Without further ado, here are the photos of the MMRGA Council:

>sound of record scratching<

Sorry, I just couldn’t do it.

I can’t make it quite so easy for you. I don’t know these people well and there is a real risk of painting a good candidate with a negative brush on the basis of a few words in his profile. If you are wondering whether to support any candidates I haven’t mentioned, please check them out for yourself and vote for them if you like them. I warn you, however, one of them is the guy who famously goaded someone on social media to “slap dat ho“, referring to Mayor Read as she dined in a restaurant with her family. Can you guess which candidate it was? Click the link to find out!

You can get a hint at who might be a MMRGA candidate by how negative they are about our wonderful city. You know, “Everything is horrible and we gotta take back our streets, etc.” My advice is: don’t vote for people who stoke fear.

James sort-of final lists:

I wasn’t going to tell you who I’m voting for, but why not? It’s not precious, it’s just democracy!

Looking over what I’ve written, here’s my school board right now:

and here’s my council right now:

Finally, for Mayor, at this moment I’m leaning toward:

Craig Speirs

I know Ernie Daykin would bring Council together as an effective team, but the challenges we face, in particular climate change and housing, demand the urgent action that Craig Speirs has demonstrated he is capable of. Maybe I’ll change my mind…

Post-Script: What about the Garbage thing?

Please vote NO in the Garbage and Green Waste plebiscite.

Why?

-because it’s a massive tax increase of $270 with no choice to opt-out

-because we are already well-served by private companies (I hear AJM is good)

-because establishing a monopoly means prices will go up up up in future years

-because currently if you waste less, you pay less

-because Whonnock, currently served by private garbage companies, will lose their service when the taxpayer-funded system takes over and serves only the main neighbourhoods of Maple Ridge, leaving the serving of Whonnock customers unprofitable for the smaller companies.

-because it will make it easier for residents to throw things away and that is the opposite direction from where we’re all heading, namely, zero waste.

Just my two cents.

Have a great time voting on Saturday, October 20th!

 

 

Published by

James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

6 thoughts on “Voting with Joy in Maple Ridge”

  1. You’re awesome James . Thanks for taking the time to write this You have just confirmed my votes. Great minds think alike 🙂

  2. We are close, but I would put Elizabeth Taylor in the equation.
    As for Mayor, I am leaning to Ernie Daykin.

    and YES for the garbage, just the 2 large item pick ups a year sells me on the price, have you ever paid to have large items deposed off? It will always be more then the $270 a year cost of garbage pick up.

    1. Thanks for commenting Eric!
      For large items I use craigslist. It’s rare that I have something big that somebody doesn’t want to pick up for free.
      But wait, isn’t the tipping fee at the transfer station minimum $15? So if you have two heavy items that cost $15-25 each to throw away, are you saying you’d be happy to pay $270 instead of $30-50? That’s the situation for my family. We go to the transfer station about twice a year. $270 (and more in future years) would be a massive tax increase for us with very little benefit. Thanks!

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