It’s understandable why so few Langley Township residents voted in a byelection for one seat on the Langley Board of Education on Saturday, but it is very disappointing.
Less than four per cent of those eligible came to the polls. Of those who did, 1,311 voted for first-time candidate Cecelia Reekie, and she won.
Reekie, although new to running for office, had some solid support. She was backed by trustees Rob McFarlane and Wendy Johnson, and also by former board chair and Langley City mayor Marlene Grinnell. Her candidacy was the subject of a “go out and vote for” letter from the Canadian Union of Public Employees and was also backed, at least in spirit, by the executive of the Langley Teachers Association.
She also received support from people she has worked with on school parent advisory committees and aboriginal education committees.
Reekie also has firsthand political experience, as the daughter of longtime former NDP MLA John Cashore, who served in the cabinets of the Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark governments.
It appears that, other than those mobilized by the campaigns of Reekie and her closest competitor, Hattie Hogeterp, few others bothered to vote. They likely felt that the election didn’t mean much. It was for one position on the board of education for less than a year.
Nonetheless, this is a sad reflection on democracy. Langley School District has a $13 million debt to pay off in the next three years. Many schools are facing possible closure, due to declining enrolment. At the same time, more schools are needed in the Willoughby area, which will one day house 75,000 people. At present, it has just four schools.
There have been lingering tensions on the board over the decision to bring in a middle school at H.D. Stafford in the fall of 2008, and people who opposed that decision backed Reekie as well — even though many of them live in Langley City and could not vote in this election.
The seven trustees who currently comprise the board of education need to work together on all the issues before them. Their focus must be on ensuring that Langley students receive an education that is as good or better that those in any other part of the province, even though $13 million in operating funds will have to be paid back to Victoria in the coming years.