Editorial: Hopkin's vote switch doesn't inspire confidence in democracy

Democracy died a little bit this week at Penticton’s regular city council meeting. Or at least was feeling a touch of fever.

Sniffles definitely set in when, after weeks of arguing and voting against a raise in electric rates, Coun. Wes Hopkin suddenly voted in favour. Hopkin and two other councillors opposed averaging annual rate increases over wholesale and retail rates; he felt the increase should only be at the wholesale level, resulting in the lowest possible increase for customers of the city’s electric utility.

But Hopkin changed his vote, not because something changed his mind — and this is where democracy started dabbing at her nose with a kleenex — but because one of the pro-faction was unable to attend the Monday meeting.

“Given that it wouldn’t pass if I did not vote, I think it is in keeping with the will of council that I vote in favour, so we can move forward,” said Hopkin.

In this case, the “will of council” was hardly clear-cut, with only a single vote majority in favour of the greater increase.

Hopkin’s sudden switch gives rise to images of deals being made behind closed doors and votes being traded. Given the nature of the vote, that’s unlikely, but it doesn’t bolster the appearance of a council where openness and transparency are valued.

Coun. John Vassilaki, another opponent of the increase said Hopkin’s reasoning “just doesn’t make sense.”

“You vote for it even though you don’t believe in the bylaw that is coming into place?” said Vassilaki, adding Hopkin was not doing the job of representing the citizens of Penticton.

With this sort of reasoning, how can Pentictonites have confidence that councillors are truly making their decisions individually and voting based on what they truly believe is best for the community and its residents?


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