Sunday, November 27, 2005

We have just had the most lovely local election. It sounds strange to say, but there was a great campaign conducted in person and online and I knew probably three quarters of the candidates personally and the resulting vote gave us a Council that everyone seems pleased with. The candidates who were unsuccessful in their bids for office were gracious in their praise for the new Council. Well met, hard fought and no bad feelings. It's the first time in my life I've felt that the democratic process can actually produce the kind of results that a community as a whole can get behind.

So with the glow still emanating from Bob Turner (who, in his run for mayor had 74% of the vote) and a council which had five people return and two great new additions in Lisa Shatzky and David Hocking, imagine my surprise when I discovered an article in The Undercurrent this week from our local federal Conservative candidate, John Weston.

Reporting on a trip he took to the island "recently" to listen to our concerns, he issued a press release and had this to say:

My visit to this beautiful island highlighted for me the issues that are front and centre among residents. People here are rightly concerned about health care, child care, education and high taxation levels needed to prop up a cumbersome bureaucracy. And as island residents, they are particularly worried about the Canadian military's inability to respond to natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes."

I am shaking my head. First, I think that the federal government is probably the smallest it has been in a long time, and certainly smaller than when the Conservatives were last in charge. Most of the folks I know in the federal public service are stressed out of their minds trying to keep up with the work. And anyway, what exactly can the Conservatives do to improve on childcare, into which the feds have recently poured billions of dollars? And, Weston, health care and education are provincial responsibilities, but affordable housing, one of our TRUE island issues, has long been a joint federal responsibility.

But I quibble. Here's where Weston really got it wrong. To make matters worse, our new mayor is a long time member of this "cumbersome bureaucracy" Weston speaks of and as a public servant has done more than anyone I know to raise awareness about issues of water use, environmental sustainability, the health of our island's ecosystems and earthquake preparation. He published a book about the geology and water system of the Lower Mainland that is a brilliant and accessible volume on the geology of the region and the hazards that the region faces. So that's just bad form, coming into a community who has just elected a public servant par excellence to office and slagging his place of employment while at the same time telling us that the things we are concerned about have actually been his overwhelming interest for something like two decades.

And any way, if Weston really asked an islander or two, he would have discovered that flooding is just not a problem here. We live on three humps of rock surrounded by ocean. Water tends to run right off. About the only flood worry that keeps islanders awake is the threat of a septic system backup, and that is truly scary. Given the stuff Weston is pushing however, it would seem that he might have some latent expertise in this problem.

And these Conservatives...what about their libertarian roots? Surely Weston knows that we are a small island next to a big city and that in the event of The Big One we have no hope whatsoever of receiving help from the military. Nor do we care I think, for we have other assets such as a strong community that and individual and neighbourhood preparation. Big government is not going to be there in our time of need, so we tend to rely on each other. If Weston is really interested in supporting our emergency preparedness I would like to see him advocating for federal government support for our own citizen based plans here on the island. Giving armoured personnel carriers to the military, useful as the are in Afghanistan, is not much help in a disaster here at home.

As the federal election campaign warms up I'd like this to be a lesson to federal politicians that happen to stumble onto our rock. Don't patronize us and try not to insult our own local politicians (some of whom garnered numbers you will never, ever see). We have just had the most amazing experience with politics. It's a shame that the mainlanders slutting for votes can't learn some real lessons from how the campaign was conducted here.

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