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Uncle Dave Thinks You Should Vote

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Oct 17, 2018

This doesn't have much to do with mountain biking. A bit. But not much.

I wouldn't say I "like" politics, but I understand its importance, and I spend a lot of time these days reading about how it will probably lead to the destruction of life as we know it. Indeed, I'm fairly suspicious of anybody who proudly proclaims their ignorance of politics. I understand it can, at times, feel like politics is this abstract thing that doesn't impact your daily life. Maybe this will be one benefit of Trump, in the long run? It is slowly becoming impossible to sit on the sidelines. Indeed, politics is government is society is life. Long ago, we figured out that by pooling portions of our resources, we'd all be the better for it, and in an nutshell, that's what we're talking about.

This is what I don't get about the small government/low taxes brigade. I understand wanting to hold on to more of what you've earned. I get that from a distance, the wall of bureaucracy that is government can seem unnecessary. I mean, I don't think anybody has ever campaigned on more waste and more inefficiency. It's unquestionable that governments don't move fast, and seem wasteful from the outside. But some of that is by design, to ensure that your money isn't absconded with. Or because having your decisions so thoroughly dissected requires a certain kind of thoroughness. Or even just because the work being done is something that no private organization would dare to take on. I see the appeal of "starving the beast". But arguing against government feels to me like arguing against society in general. I mean, sometimes I think it would be pretty great to just retire to a cave on an island somewhere and never have to see another person ever again, so I can relate. But there's still an expectation that the government will prevent a marauding band of barbarians from braining me with a 2x4 implicit in that daydream.

And within all of this, municipal government is the lowest of the low. Because of the de-centralized nature (and lack of local newsrooms), local government gets the least coverage, and thus, the garners the least interest. Until something goes wrong. And then we expect a mayor to move mountains, even without the authority to change the laws we're angry about or to create the taxation that would be necessary to fix the problem. So much time is spent talking about these large, potentially incurable problems that we end up ignoring the crazy amounts of stuff that Cities do in fact look after. Depending on where you live, those people holed up in City Hall will probably have some say in how your garbage gets collected, where your sewage goes, what sort of state your drinking water is in, how your traffic flows, if those roads are pockmarked with potholes, whether or not you get a parking ticket, if your library is stocked with books, how much development your neighbourhood will see, whether or not a new park gets built, if the fire department shows up to save your house, and maybe some kind of say in the amount of force the police get to use when they arrest you for jaywalking across a bike lane. It’s fascinating how people don’t see this, and how so many candidates seem to have no understanding of how this might work. Like arguing against higher taxes while advocating for a doubling of sanitation services. Or claiming to be the "libertarian minded party of law and order" while pushing to build a stadium so that the NBA can return to Vancouver (Atlas shrugged and then went in for a dunk?). I mean, if the candidates themselves don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, why should we? 

So, you really should be paying attention, but you're probably not (no judgement). How many elections are happening in British Columbia this month? The ElectionsBC list of candidates is 191 pages long! No wonder nobody really pays any attention. It's much easier when all you need to worry about is 3-4 leaders yelling at one another on a Federal or Provincial level. You just choose the person who seems the least objectionable and move forward quickly and easily. But on a local level? Man. I have to wade through 158 people running for a total of 27 positions. That feels crazy, and seems almost overwhelming enough to skip entirely.

And somehow, within all of that word salad of saving the world, you have to find some kind of balance between the inspirational and the practical. Affordable housing, or more bike lanes? End the fentanyl crisis, or tear down the bike lanes we just built? Solve global warming, or pick up the garbage more often? It doesn't get much of the glory, but we're voting as much for all of those simple things as the big ones. The things that we take for granted like running water, working traffic lights and paved roads are probably more likely to be impacted than anything. And that's it. That's society. That's where your tax money is going. That's how we've managed to get to this place where we are. Because if we were all responsible for figuring out where our own sewage went, we'd have shit pooling up ankle deep in the streets. Only, the streets would be a dirt ditch and the ankle deep shit would be knee deep shit. And we probably wouldn’t have to worry about all that shit because we would have poisoned ourselves by drinking the water that was contaminated with all of the garbage we didn't know what to do with.

What does this have to do with mountain biking? Well, nothing, really. When elections roll around, if we're feeling energetic (we being NSMB), we'll sometimes get around to talking to a few candidates and tangentially connecting it to mountain biking. Obviously (I'm assuming nobody else is going to), we didn't really get around to doing that this time (not yet - Ed.). And, I'm kind of glad. I mean...if you live in the DNV, you absolutely need to go out and vote for Matthew Bond. But at the same time...this shit is kind of (in my opinion) a lot more important than whether or not a few trails get built for our bikes.

So...I mean...I don't really want to do this much work either...but I'm going to...please, if you live in BC, take an hour or two this week. Find a list of your local candidates. Take a few minutes to read up on each of them. Strike out the ones that are demonstrably awful. Compile the others into a list. And then find another hour this Saturday to go and vote. It's not that difficult.


Uncle Dave

If elections go well, it's possible Uncle Dave will  once again become chipper enough to answer some letters. You should send him a question just in case that happens.

Uncle Dave's Music Club

I think I'll probably always have a bit of a soft spot for NOFX.


Tags: Vote
Posted in: Ask Uncle Dave, Editorial, Features

Trending on NSMB


+1 Mammal
John Forsythe  - Oct. 17, 2018, 7:51 a.m.

Small Gov/Low Taxes

A friend worked for the Navy here in the states. Every year they have to rush around in October to spend all of their money on projects that they don't need to do in order to secure funding for the next year. I'm not talking chump change, this is millions of dollars. Projects like replacing all the lighting on base with LED lights, even though there is a supply of functional CF and Fluorescent bulbs on hand that should be used first.

Or, Seattle and the homeless issue. City officials wanted to impose an arbitrary head tax on 20 of the biggest businesses in Seattle for homeless housing and such. People got pissed and asked to see the books to find out where the other 190 million dollars they get every year went. The idea was quietly thrown out as the council, who has no official oversight, didn't want people to see the waste.

Just a few examples. 

Thanks for keeping it civil. And congratulations on almost making thorough the oped without endorsing a candidate.


+2 Mammal Niels
Cam McRae  - Oct. 17, 2018, 8:53 a.m.

That just sounds like advocating against stupidity. Sounds reasonable.


+1 Merwinn
Dave Tolnai  - Oct. 17, 2018, 5:19 p.m.

I knew I'd take a bit of heat for writing such a simplistic defense of taxes.  Couple things:

1 - It's easier to point out "waste" on a Federal/Provincial/State level where things are a bit more intangible.  I was mostly speaking of municipal.

2 - Your navy example...I mean, sure.  This sounds like waste.  But the US Military Budget is one of the only things growing under Trump.  Just because the military is wasting it, doesn't mean it couldn't be spent productively somewhere else within government.  There should be a middle ground somewhere between throwing money at something and blindly cutting something.

3- I don't know much about Seattle or this issue, but this touches on what I'm talking about.  Cities are often left to deal with the big issues, and don't have mechanisms to deal with it.  Transit infrastructure, homelessness, etc.  I sort of feel like elections place too much emphasis on these big picture things, and not enough on the nuts and bolts of the City.  Maybe the Seattle plan was a bad one, maybe not.  It shouldn't be an argument against all municipal government spending.

Edit - added "municipal" to the last sentence


+1 Merwinn
Dave Tolnai  - Oct. 17, 2018, 5:46 p.m.

Oh...and the endorsed candidate, Matt Bond, used to be the head of our local trail association, so he's pretty much an automatic endorsement for any mountain biker.  Even though we should look beyond that.  But still vote for Matt.


Merwinn  - Oct. 19, 2018, 10:08 a.m.

Couldn't resist, eh? ;)

What kills me is that some voters on the Shore believe think gridlock on the North Shore can be solved in a vacuum by Council and needs to be fixed yesterday. It's the only issue being discussed by all the candidates (development is a byproduct) , and no one really has a clue how to fix it because no one is an traffic engineer and/or urban planner, except Matt Bond. I won't even start into how many levels of gov't own road infrastructure in the DNV. 

And I still don't know largely who to vote for. :/


+1 Kos
natbrown  - Oct. 17, 2018, 10:12 p.m.

Government quality is independent of government size. The responsibility for government quality rests principally on the voting population, which is obviously made up of individuals like you and me. What a government can achieve increases as it's size goes up, and it's up to the population to engage properly and thoughtfully to ensure the goals set are in line with what the population wants, and also that those goals are met to a reasonable degree. Now of course this fails, principally because far too many people in the population are not thoughtful enough and/or aren't able to reason effectively. So, an example of a government that might be too big could be a government running a program subsidising pedicures. If we ignore that this isn't the only explanation, we can probably agree that this exaggerated example likely does represent a government that's too big. Also setting aside the likely exorbitant size of the US military, I do not think your example of the Navy changing all light bulbs (or your other example) directly supports a conclusion that the government is too big. A waste of taxes, absolutely, but the waste of tax dollars here is not directly related to government size because it is not related to more government employment. If your example relates to government size at all it might indicate that more oversight is required. Hence, larger government, but I don't think that's a necessary conclusion, just a reasonable one. 

The problems we face in the running of our societies are only exacerbated by inaction in the face of these kinds of corruption. It's essentially implicit in belonging to these institutions that you have go along with these kinds of decisions- think of how many people would have had to go along with each of the examples you give for government waste. I bet your friend would not have found it a welcoming environment to emphatically point out the waste of your populations money in this Navy example. The problems are so, so deep. 

I may have prioritised clarity over civility here, but I'd much rather be understood than polite.


+2 Shrockie Cam McRae
yahs  - Oct. 17, 2018, 8:55 a.m.

A wave tank like Kelly Slater's  surf ranch on the North Shore. That would win the election for sure.


+2 yahs Shrockie
Dave Tolnai  - Oct. 17, 2018, 5:20 p.m.

Why not just an urban river surf wave like in Munich?  I would support that.


+1 Niels
SilentG  - Oct. 17, 2018, 9:41 a.m.

Merican here who actually works in municipal government but is guilty of having that NOFX song in my head quite a bit.

Speaking in broad strokes here I'm always fascinated when people complain about the government but always seem to forget that you get the government that you elect (or don't elect as the case may be).

Most of the same challenges with government are found in corporations or any institution really and people tend to forget that because the government gets some of your hard earned money in the form of taxes.

Corporations and organizations will gladly take stuff from you as well and I think the important point here is to vote, to think for yourself, and to be aware of what is going on or not going in your area starting at the local level because you have the most clout at that level.

Enough soapbox...keep up the good fight Dave.


+1 Merwinn
Geof Harries  - Oct. 18, 2018, 2:05 p.m.

> Speaking in broad strokes here I'm always fascinated when people complain about the government but always seem to forget that you get the government that you elect

That's not exactly true.

Citizens don't elect the government staff who actually do the work and provide and support the services. They are simply public sector employees.

The elected officials are the politicians who, again broad strokes give those same employees direction, whether ill-advised or not. This direction often changes when a political party changes.

The public sector employees are the ones who suffer (and at the same time, also make bad decisions) based on the whims of their "bosses".

Government is complicated.


+1 Mathias Felix
rvoi  - Oct. 17, 2018, 2:05 p.m.

"Freedom Lika Shopping Cart" is one of my favorites to play really loud for the neighbors...



kekoa  - Oct. 17, 2018, 2:50 p.m.

Well said. Having kids and President Trump has gotten me more interested in politics. Sometimes things will suck for you so that others will benefit. Hard pill to swallow.


+1 Niels
Dave Tolnai  - Oct. 17, 2018, 5:22 p.m.

I mostly agree.  But I'd take it further.  "Sometimes things that look like they might not benefit you, actually do."

Even if you send your kids to private school, you'll probably benefit from a healthy education system, for example.


+1 Merwinn
Cooper Quinn  - Oct. 17, 2018, 8:22 p.m.

Late to the party here, but if you're a DNV resident, and want to think about more than housing and transportation (difficult, I'm aware) for who gets your vote, have a read here: 



Cooper Quinn  - Oct. 17, 2018, 8:23 p.m.

And also another submission for Uncle Dave's Music Club this week. Its topical. 



Wile_E.  - Oct. 18, 2018, 12:53 p.m.

I love the music selection, given the topic.  Let's all vote while we listen to Murder The Government!  Brilliant.  I also couldn't help but imagine all the complaints when the unpaved streets knee deep in shit were dumbed down all those years ago... 

In all seriousness, though, as I become more involved in the mountain biking community and start to understand the complexity and necessity of stewardship be it on trails or roads/traffic lights, I am now looking more to municipal politics and will be voting.  Thanks for another good one, Uncle Dave


Mathias Felix  - Oct. 18, 2018, 1:44 p.m.

Well, voting is like going to the dentist. If you don‘t do it, everything went brown!

Comming from a country which is proud of his direct democracy, I have learend that as long as voting has a real Impact and the results are binding, the people have the convidence in the system and most important, they deal with the topic. That basic is mandatory for a healthy and working democracy.


+1 natbrown
Geof Harries  - Oct. 18, 2018, 2:18 p.m.

I think you actually can have a small government and still be effective at delivering good services that work well and meet most peoples' needs.

The organization itself "just" needs to be much more efficient to do so...and most governments are not. They are stuck following the same patterns they've stuck to since their beginnings.

Adding more government staff just increases complexity and bloat to the existing broken and/or under-performing service. It's wiser (and at the same time, more complex) to re-design government services from scratch. That, though is hard and beyond most peoples' knowledge and abilities.

The UK government's Government Digital Service is doing an incredible job on this front. Same with the United States Digital Service and the Digital Transformation Office in Australia.


natbrown  - Oct. 18, 2018, 2:48 p.m.

There are certainly more variables than size, and rational design could be applied with great effect rather than the evolution that seems to be essentially the only way existing government activities change. The examples you give are great, although they are basically new activities that require some design in order to be established. If these end up producing a mechanism for a more direct democracy I think it would great.


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