When I told my wife in 2004 that I was thinking about running in the next provincial election, she told me I wasn’t thick-skinned enough for politics. She warned me that my integrity was too important to me to play the game and to put up with being stereotyped as a liar, cheat, and thief.
Funnily enough, the person who opened the first door I knocked on as a newly-minted NDP candidate told me I had to be a “liar, a cheat, and a thief” for wanting to be a politician. Six years later, I left the NDP because I wasn’t willing to continue playing the game of party politics. I married a wise woman!
Since leaving the political party system, I’ve found there is a wholly different world available to people who want to truly serve their constituents, for people who want to work on creating the kind of public policy that will lead to good government.
This is the world of the parliamentarian. It’s a world unencumbered by the petty partisanship that has come to characterize BC politics; a world that exists outside of the power struggles that absorb party politicians and their paid political staff.
A parliamentarian can use the Legislative Assembly to advance good public policy. They can put forward private members’ bills, and ask real questions in debates on legislation, debates on the budget, and in Question Period. Parliamentarians also get to raise real issues in the press, which are often avoided by the two political parties vying for power— issues like hydraulic fracking, democratic reform, raising income assistance and disability rates, truly addressing climate change, and helping our communities prepare for a dramatically shrinking timber supply. I believe many people seeking political office do so because they want to be “parliamentarians.” Unfortunately, the stranglehold political parties have on our democratic system and individual MLAs turns these people into “politicians” who end up serving the interests of their political masters first and foremost.
That’s too bad. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we could use a lot more parliamentarians in the BC Legislature.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.