Apr 29,2011 The Now News

Coquitlam Now, April 29,2011

What if a vote was held and people took time out of their day to cast a ballot, but the results were ignored? Well, it did happen, right here in the Tri-Cities.

Port Moody council voted Tuesday to ignore the results of a referendum asking whether the city should borrow $16 million to rebuild its aging Fire Hall No. 1. For the 1,980 people who cared about the issue and voted, this decision must seem incomprehensible.

Coun. Meghan Lahti, who sided with the majority in quashing the result, said she's not comfortable "spending $16 million on a narrow margin of support that's been identified with such a small sampling of our population."

Coun. Karen Rockwell said it would be "fiscally reckless of us to proceed," since "only 304 people decided this question."

While it's true that a margin of just slightly more than 300 votes separated the 1,142 people who voted Yes from the 838 who voted No, this is hardly an historically close result. In some provincial and federal elections, for example, the margin of victory is much smaller; in 2008, Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh won his Vancouver South riding by just 20 votes.

In a democracy, a difference of even one vote -- after a recount, if it's that close, of course -- is allowed to stand.

So we don't buy that argument at all, nor do we accept low voter turnout as a reason to ignore the referendum results. If people don't care enough to cast a ballot after numerous stories of the referendum have run in local newspapers, the city has advertised the issue on its website and a reader board near City Hall has flashed messages to motorists, there's nothing more that could have been done. They simply don't care.

Let those who do care decide what happens in their community. Isn't that what democracy's all about? What do you think? Vote in our poll at www.thenownews.com. We promise not to ignore the results.