Mike is right

Mike McDonald over at the B.C. Liberal party made an interesting point on Sunday.
Not one to miss an opportunity for a partisan shot given the nature of his political post, McDonald tweeted: “Shocked at low NDP turnout in Fairview. Huge media, high profile candidates, less than 400 voted. NDP support not deep.”
Despite the dig, McDonald is on to something.
But what he’s on to isn’t pretty and regrettably it ails all political parties in B.C.
On Sunday, George Heyman, the former Government and Service Employees’ Union president and current Sierra Club of B.C. boss, won 221 votes to win the B.C. NDP’s Vancouver-Fairview nomination. Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs pulled in 161 votes.
That’s all of 382 votes after a five month long nomination contest between two high-profile candidates where media pundits had predicted that either candidate would find themselves in a NDP cabinet if that party forms the next government and the nominee wins Vancouver-Fairview.
All of those NDP members could have comfortably found a seat on a Boeing 747-8 with space left over for 85 more passengers.
Ironically, the B.C. Liberals didn’t release the number of votes at its contested Penticton nomination meeting on Saturday, reportedly at the request of the candidates, so it’s difficult to make any comparisons with the NDP turnout.
But there are some other comparisons that can be considered.
Failing any major political upset, there are likely two surefire tickets to Ottawa on November 26th: the Conservative party nomination for the Calgary-Centre by-election and the NDP nomination in Victoria.
Not surprisingly, both nominations were contested.
In Victoria, organizers were evidently “overwhelmed” by the turnout and had to print more ballots. Local lawyer Murray Rankin won the nomination with 352 votes cast out of 535.
Across the Rockies, former Calgary Herald managing editor Joan Crockatt won the Conservative Party’s nomination in Calgary-Centre with 445 votes out of 847 cast, on the fourth ballot.
More than 900 Conservative party members voted in the race that included six candidates on the first ballot.
Even the Liberal party had a contested nomination in Calgary-Centre, where 342 ballots were cast. And no one has ever claimed that a Liberal nomination anywhere in Alberta was a sure thing to anything.
There’s also been two other surefire tickets in the recent past: one to the premier’s office in B.C. and the other to the same office in Alberta.
In February 2011, Christy Clark won the B.C. leadership in a race where 54,879 party members cast a ballot.
A few months later, Alison Redford picked up the keys to the premier’s office in Alberta after winning a race where 72,595 members cast a ballot.
While impressive when compared to Rankin and Clark, the turnouts for Crockatt and Redford aren’t much too boast about either: in the 2006 Alberta Conservative leadership convention, 144,000 party members cast a ballot.
McDonald really did hit the nail on the head with his tweet, but regrettably that nail is slowly driving its way into a coffin custom designed for voter apathy and every party in B.C. is paying the price, as is the province.
When nearly one out of two voters couldn’t even be bothered to vote in the last B.C. election – in a race where every vote really did count – it’s not just party operatives that should be worried, everyone should fear the  implications.

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC. www.integritybc.ca