A new Canadian flag flies high above Nelson at the top of the Flagpole trail on Elephant mountain. The Friends of Pulpit Rock replaced the flag in early October.

COLUMN: Post election reflection

The day after the federal election, a Nelson Star reporter looks back on recent events while hiking up the Flagpole trail.

The day after the federal election, with the fair fall weather in abundance, and not much time left in my day, I decided to hike up to Pulpit Rock and if time permitted, to the flagpole higher up. I wasn’t alone on the trail, something regulars all know — it’s a popular hike.

The day previous, the Friends of the Pulpit Rock held their annual fun race. I bumped into Cyswog’n’fun triathlon organizer Petra Lehmann and local bestselling cookbook author Shelley Adams. A few Nelson Leafs players breezed past me on their way down the hill.

Behind me followed my trusty four-legged sidekick who is now the wise age of 13. While her pace is slower now and she needs more rest, her nose works incredibly well as did the rest of her body when it came to beelining after a scent that took her to a dismembered yet fairly fresh rabbit.

(Later, when we returned home near dark that night, I read about the amazing return of 12-year-old Boris who survived 18 days in the wilderness. I couldn’t get through it without thinking how heartsick I would be if my dog went missing for that length of time, not knowing if she could survive — insert tears here! I suddenly felt relief at my ol’ pup’s rabbit find.)

The yellow leaves rustled high above, golden against the blue sky with the white bark standing out amongst all the warm colours, the sun was warm as I and other fitness folks ran up the flagpole trail.

Reaching the top from the gentler graded trail, I was treated to the makeshift teepee structure constructed out of long and now gray tree limbs, and an elevated rock fire pit.

I hiked down to the flagpole and sure enough, the brand new Canadian flag was vivid red and crisp white against the blue sky with a dot of the crescent moon rising beyond. There was an air of patriotism.

I am the same age as new prime minster elect Justin Trudeau, who has visited this valley more than once and learned the hard way about the dangers and rewards of travelling in the backcountry. His youngest brother, Michel, was killed while ski traversing in Kokanee Glacier Park when an avalanche swept him into Kokanee Lake seventeen years ago this month.

(Which reminds me: we’re still waiting for FrontCounter BC’s decision on Kootenay Heli-Ski’s tenure application for a heliski operation bordering on that park. It’s approaching 100 days past the 140-day target for decision making.)

Regardless of what political party I support, I was overwhelmed by the results of the election the night before.

I had no idea which party would come out ahead and the Liberal majority took me by surprise. Locally, I watched in suspense as the Kootenay-Columbia vote counts came in as the lead went back and forth between Conservative David Wilks and New Democrat Wayne Stetski.

With 260 polls in the riding, it came down to the last two before those glued to Elections Canada’s website could learn the final outcome. Stetski won by 282 votes, less than half a percentage point. He refused to give an acceptance speech and I can understand why.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person feeling tension. I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for each candidate awaiting the results.

Some comic relief was welcome by the time I read my colleague Will Johnson’s brilliant catch of local Liberal candidate Don Johnston’s reaction to Trudeau’s majority win: “Line up, pot’s legal.”

I laughed out loud, releasing the heavy tension. The underground industry that fuels an unaccounted amount of disposable income in this town and region can become legitimized in time.

How that will hit budding entrepreneurs’ bottom lines may cause debate and concern, but as a taxpayer, I appreciate the cash crop’s value to fund important social services that all of us benefit from, like education, health care and policing.

While the city and local organizations cite statistics that show Nelson residents have an average income $10,000 less than the province as a whole, I wonder if that will change once people start declaring their once-illegal earnings. But this will take time.

Looking at the voter turnout, while it will be a while yet before we have poll-by-poll breakdowns, organizers of the local Community Voter Challenge must be happy to know that the two Kootenay ridings placed among the top 10 in BC with 73.79 per cent of eligible voters casting ballots in the Kootenay Columbia riding.

It’s hard to know how much this challenge affected the turnout but I thoroughly enjoyed watching Lucas Myers’ Rick Mercer spoof, which aimed to entice voters to reach for a 98 per cent turn out, and summoned Mercer as Myer started a lawn mower for the finale.

Interestingly, the highest voter turn out was in the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding where Elizabeth May won once again, now the sole Green Party member elected to parliament. The lowest ten were in the Greater Vancouver area, the very lowest of which elected a Conservative MP.

Looking up at the fresh flag on Elephant mountain, I was grateful for the volunteers’ efforts. When you hike uphill, it may strain your muscles but the change in views are worth every step. Don’t underestimate the desire for change or the power individuals hold. That includes you.

With the federal election behind us, the electorate have work to do. Let your MP know what you value and keep them accountable.

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