Rarely have I been happier, or prouder, to claim that I am a former resident of the riding of Saanich -Gulf Islands than last night. Thanks to an energized and spirited campaign, party leader Elizabeth May defeated the incumbent Conservative Cabinet Minister Gary Lunn in a close and hard-fought race that elected the first Green Party member of Parliament. I CAN’T WAIT till she gets to Ottawa.
Because of all the places I have lived, Salt Spring Island is far and away the most interesting. It is one of those places on our planet that have a very special energy; the only other place I know that comes close is Tofino – but it has a road and has changed out of all measure. I don’t know why, and there are a lot of theories, but if you spend any time there at all you realize that there is no denying its a place way past ordinary. And it has, for many years, attracted the sort of people who are into seriously “alternative” lifestyles. When I lived there, there were still hippy communes up in the hills, mostly populated by older guys with greying ponytails and young girls with names like Rainbow and Sunshine. I’m not speculating why, I’m just saying that’s the way it was.
But it also attracted many very, very talented artists and writers and the sort of people who thought it was a good idea to start a goat farm and hand make goat cheeses. Those artisan cheeses are now highly prized and sought after and the farmers are, no doubt, enjoying their new-found prosperity. Because I’m pretty sure that in the early years, there was not a lot of money in hand pressing goat brie. And it is still the only place I know of that celebrates All Hallows Eve with a multi-denominational celebration of fire and feasting that included the local Christian churches, the Wiccan community and any other Pagan who cared to show up. It was fantastic, memorable and couldn’t be further from what we know of as Halloween here on the Mainland (well except some of the more Bacchanalian parties I have been too . . . the spirit does live on!)
So it seems that maybe some of the rest of the world (or at least BC) is catching up with the ethics and social and environmental responsibility that have always been a way of life on Salt Spring. We in BC are referred to disparagingly by the rest of Canada as “Lotusland” and we are often thought of, especially in Alberta (where I also lived), as a “bunch of long-haired hippies”, a sweeping generalization that does not even begin to capture the diversity of our province. Witness the numerous Conservative and Liberal ridings elected last night – BC is far from a homogenous whole. We are a diverse group of people with competing, and often conflicting, ideals.
But nonetheless, the hippy spirit not only lives on, but is obviously prospering in at least some areas. After all, where else is a gathering of more than 3 people always assumed to be a protest? And with some glaring omissions (RCMP over exuberance) it’s usually tolerated with a certain amount of shoulder shrugging that says “well, that’s just the way it is in BC”.
I’m proud to live in British Columbia and profoundly glad that I kept going West till I found somewhere that felt like home to me. And although North Vancouver, where I live now, is a long way socially and economically from the Gulf Islands, I am still always gratified that in the sea of Conservative blue that makes up my electoral riding, there are still a few thousand like-minded people who vote every election for the Green Party. It always surprises me to see those Green votes in North Van, but every election there they are, and mine is one of them. Maybe it’s because North Van is such a beautiful area of the Lower Mainland, backed right up on the mountains as we are. I suspect that other people like me, who love nature and long to live close to it, find the nearest and best area on the North Shore.
Ms. May and her party ran a great campaign. They tapped into the youth vote, they utilized Facebook, Twitter and social media in all it’s forms. Just check out their website – it’s modern, clean and very Green. It’s appeal to young voters is immediately obvious. And maybe that’s what I found most heartening about last nights election, because it sure wasn’t the Tory majority. It’s that there seemed to be, finally, an engagement with younger voters and after so many years of stagnation, a sense that the status quo was changing and maybe, finally, that iron grip was being loosened. It’s going to take a while, but I”m hopeful.