A year of independence

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since my weekly column sparked a chain of events, which led to a change in the leadership of the BC NDP and my decision to leave the party system and represent Cariboo North as an Independent.

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since my weekly column sparked a chain of events, which led to a change in the leadership of the BC NDP and my decision to leave the party system and represent Cariboo North as an Independent.

My column was an assessment of the speeches B.C.’s main political party leaders gave to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler. I critiqued all of them, including the Opposition leader, with a view to pointing out that there’s something wrong with our political system when leaders chase sound bites — speaking to the press rather than addressing the needs of those in the room. I didn’t realize at the time I was going to expose another deep-seated problem with our political system: the control political parties feel they need to exert over their elected members at the expense of fundamental democratic principles. At UBCM this year, the premier and Opposition leader spoke more directly to the issues facing local government and clearly differentiated themselves on some key policy issues. Adrian Dix rejected the idea of a municipal auditor general, claiming it was an insult to local government. The next day the premier’s affirmation that she would be introducing legislation to create a municipal auditor general was greeted with stony silence.

The Cariboo Regional District indicated its willingness to pilot this new audit process and I applaud its desire to be early adopters of this approach. The premier confirmed her support for BC Hydro’s smart meters, even though UBCM had passed a motion calling for a moratorium on the program. Dix had rejected smart meters in his speech to the delegates the day before.  Both leaders had job creation on their minds. Dix’s focus was on local economies and ensuring government spending maximizes job creation through local procurement. The premier’s focus was on being “B.C.’s best salesman ever” by promoting our raw resources in China and India and by attracting foreign students to our post-secondary institutions.

This year at UBCM, local government representatives saw a contrast from the two premier contenders. With the legislature sitting this fall, I hope we continue to see this more substantive politics.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.