From Horror to Hope to Heartache

Truth be told, the last two months of my life have felt consumed by the emotional roller coaster of elections, from horror to hope to heartbreak.

It all started last month, as I watched in horror, Canadians came alarmingly close to electing a majority conservative government, with the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history.

Perhaps a little too emotionally, I paced the kitchen floor as the results came in, thinking…I’m surrounded by oil hungry idiots and absolute apathy, how is this possible?  In a time where we have no time, where global warming is literally steaming ahead, and we hold such a delicate collective future in our hands, how could we?  Well, with some damage control, we squeaked in another conservative minority, patted the status quo on the back and went back to business as usual in Canada.

About three weeks later, I walked over to a friend’s place to watch the US elections results roll in. I knew that the polls had been predicting Obama’s probable win, but I never quite trust poll results.  Election Day always feels unstable because you never really know what your gonna get.

As I watched Obama win, listened to him speak and heard the crowds roar in their new leader, some of my cynicism melted away.  I actually felt a weight lift off my shoulders, and an absolute relief from the low level anxiety I had felt for the last eight years of unbelievable W reign.

There was, that night, and continues to be, a hope that is very tangible.

The US election to me was the apathy anti-Christ. For the first time in my 32 years I thought it was more embarrassing to be a Canadian than an American. Voter turnout in the US was 68%, breaking records in many states and more than 10% above our own national turnout.  Obama’s speech was empowering, actually asking people to act through hope rather than fear.  I was pleasantly shocked. I had to wipe a tear or two from my eyes, because I was so moved, which, for a US presidential speech, would have been unthinkable in the past!

My partner pointed out a website called “if the world could vote”. You could enter your name and the website would find you globally and add your vote to the others. The collective results showed up on a world map.  To no ones surprise, it was an 87% Obama world.

Another few weeks have gone by, a third election has come and gone.  Although the world’s focus was not with us for our BC municipal and civic elections, for those of us deeply involved in local issues and politics these elections captured us just as much, or more so than the others.  Now we have new and old leaders spanning the political spectrum.

As the forest campaigner, I work on the Tree Farm Licence deletion issues on Southern Vancouver Island. My particular election concern focused in on a strangely disjointed, yet massive land base called the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area (JDFEA).  The JDFEA stretches from Otter Point to Port Renfrew, including Shirley and Jordan River, and also includes the landlocked ‘islands’ of East Sooke, Willis Point, Malahat, T’Sou-ke, Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations reserve lands.

These distinct and diverse communities, with small populations, have somehow found themselves voting together (or the majority not voting at all)for one Regional Director who will have the job of attempting to represent them all.

My heart broke early Sunday morning as I learned the development-backed candidate, Mike Hicks, take the JDFEA election by 145 votes.   Hicks had made it clear early on, that if elected he would do his utmost to undo hard won CRD bylaws.  In particular, the bylaws that passed last April with the intention of slowing down Western Forest Products proposed mega subdivisions in and around Jordan River.

For the thousands of people throughout the CRD and elsewhere on Vancouver Island, who know these lands and have been following the story of Western Forest Products 2007 Tree Farm Licence deletions, I couldn’t help but wish the whole island could have voted.  Maybe I should have set up an ‘Obama world’ mimic site where the whole island could vote in the JDFEA. I am almost positive that the outcome would have favored issue aware and active Ute Schnarr rather than development-backed Hicks.

With so many of us outraged by the continued privatization of our forests, government subsidies by way of corporate handouts, lack of community consultation, and disregard for public interest, I do believe, in the greater scheme of things, it is a  ‘Schnarr’ region.  This is what the collective ‘we’ have to remember as we continue to work to maintain the forest and rural quality of the region.

All in all, despite the mixed results, I am happy that this cycle of elections is over.  I am glad to see the signs come down and let our over-targeted brains have a few months rest before we start thinking about the provincial election next May.

For the moment, the roller coaster ride has come to a halt, and we can step down onto shaky ground, recognize what we have learned, and hope that the horror and heartbreak will ease by continuing to speak out about what matters to us.  No matter what the elections tell us about who is in power, the Obama message rings clear, we are.

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