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Out of Left Field: Campaign conundrum: how much benefit of the doubt should we give?

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
February 3rd, 2011

I hate to be jaded and cynical, but limits of my credulity can only be stretched so far.

You probably know that the B.C. Liberals are shopping for a new leader. You probably also know that they have six contenders, one of whom will soon become B.C.’s newest premier. What many people don’t know is that they are voting, on Feb.12, on a new electoral math that would weight the votes such that each community – regardless its population – would have an equal say. Castlegar, if this new approach is accepted (and I think it will be), will have as much say as Victoria in choosing our province’s next premier.

And all of a sudden, ministers are showing up in droves to stump in Castlegar – fully two thirds of the field have already made one campaign stop, and I imagine there will be more to come.

I have to admit, I’m less interested in what they have to say when they get here, than I am in whether they would’ve be able, before this, to even find the Kootenays on a map. More importantly, will they remember where we are when this is all over and we go back to representing only a handful of votes compared to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland?

Every candidate I’ve talked to so far has acknowledged a “disconnect” between Victoria and rural B.C. … a disconnect not rectified while each and every one of these candidates was a bonafide representative of the sitting government.

Right or wrong, this leaves me a tad skeptical.

Go figure.

I not sure whether to be impressed that M.L.A. Kevin Falcon, our most recent visitor, refrained from making any real commitments to rural B.C. in his brief visit Tuesday – I mean, I applaud politicians who avoid making promises they know they’ll never keep.

Sure, he made the obligatory nod to us, “I’ll be premier to the whole province – you’ll notice the difference,” but offered little by way of genuine commitments that might actually mean something to us.

I heard no promises that the education funding formulas would change in such a way that rural communities weren’t being disproportionately penalized for diminshing class sizes. I heard no promise of action regarding land the City of Castlegar was encouraged to purchase – with taxpayers’ money – for a new regional hospital.

I heard him talk about growing the provincial economy, but nothing about how he’d ensure rural B.C. got to participate in said growth, beyond his suggestion of locating a premier’s office “in the middle of B.C.”, so we wouldn’t have to drive so far. (To lodge our complaints, perhaps?).

I’m also not sure I appreciate the velvet-glove/iron-fist approach to opposition ridings – Falcon suggested that we’d see more governmental visits (my interpretation: have more political power) if our elected M.L.A. was a member of the government …wait a minute, didn’t he just say, “I will be premier to the whole province …”? I know for-sure he didn’t qualify that with, “except NDP strongholds”.

I want to believe in the system and the people who run it, I really do … but I can’t help but be offended that our leaders – the ones seeking even higher office, no less – think we’re so naive that we haven’t the subtlety to recognize a veiled threat when we hear one, nor the wit to suss out the real reason for visits from those who have, until now, shown only the vaguest of interest in our region and our concerns.

It’s tough for me to listen to a candidate say he’s not about pandering when his very presence here calls the statement into question.

I hope I’m wrong, and they would’ve come here to campaign anyway, regardless the electoral math.

Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how many times our new premier comes back.

 

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