The voters of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s have again proven themselves to be the smartest people in the province … politically speaking.
The electorate of P.C.S.P. — as some residents refer to it — turfed the town’s councillors in Tuesday’s election, when all five incumbent councillors were defeated.
It wasn’t even close. In a 20-candidate race where the Top 6 would get in, the best-performing incumbent finished eighth.
Politics as practised in P.C.S.P. could be dubbed decimation democracy. This week’s ballot-box blast was the third municipal election in a row in which an entire slew of councillors were sent packing, with not a single incumbent re-elected.
(There will be one returnee. Moses Tucker, a councillor during the 2009-13 term, defeated incumbent Bill Fagan in the two-person mayoralty race.)
In 2005, disgruntled townspeople elected a new slate of six, wiping out the councillors of the day.
In 2009, the underperforming councillors walked the electoral plank, with not a single incumbent returning to office (although Fagan went from a council seat to the mayor’s chair).
In 2013, the pattern was repeated, with new candidates defeating all the old ones.
A local joke is that there must be something in the water. For a town of 6,000 to have such raucous politics seems inexplicable to some. But it is explicable. The voters are smart.
One of democracy’s drawbacks is that incumbents have an automatic advantage. In a system where name recognition counts for so much, office holders have a built-in likelihood of defending their position, as long as they haven’t been a total Dunderdale.
Down the road from P.C.S.P., in the legendary city of St. John’s, every incumbent retook his seat. There were no upsets. There were no surprises.
This would make sense in a metropolis where residents’ every need is sufficiently met, where the roads are in such pristine shape that the majority of people have to Google “pothole” to see what one looks like, where streets and sidewalks are cleared of snow in winter before the burghers’ alarm clocks even buzz.
But in St. John’s? Not so much.
The up side
However, the big city’s election results are good news for the thousands of so-called brown-baggers who live outside its limits and commute in to collect paycheques.
With the St. John’s incumbents receiving such overwhelming approval, the rest of us won’t have to listen to the annual rite of winter-long wailing and whining about snowclearing services being slow, inadequate, unsafe, etc.
After all, things are swell at city hall.
Meanwhile, in P.C.S.P., things are nowhere near swell, and the electorate knows it and has said so time and time again.
Granted, the situation could be looked at from another perspective — that the voters are stunned, and keep electing doofuses who are incapable of doing the job.
After all, a wholesale change of council members might be an admission that the choices last time were a mistake. The oft-proven cliché about people getting the government they deserve comes to mind.
But in P.C.S.P., the major issue is singular and straightforward. (Unlike in St. John’s, where, say, the issue of sidewalk snowclearing is incredibly complex; if only they had the technology.)
In P.C.S.P., most people want to preserve the rural aspect of the town. It is a major issue in election after election. And, in election after election, candidates get elected based on assurances they will preserve and protect the town’s rural nature.
Moments after candidates become council members, the machinery starts up to continue the task of laying waste to the landscape.
Voters are clear on what they want. If the new P.C.S.P. councillors don’t deliver, they too will receive an unpleasant message in 2017.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org