Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Ideal MP for the Cariboo-Chilcotin

{The following article was also published in the November 2012 issue of the Anahim-Nimpo Lake Messenger--MC}

Have you ever thought about  what the ideal political representative for the Cariboo-Chilcotin would be like, or at least how the existing job that our MLAs and MPs are doing could be improved?  I have.   As a Parliamentary Intern working for Kamloops MP Nelson Riis in the 1980s, I saw that it was possible to be a successful politician without being  nasty toward others or having an exaggerated opinion of oneself. Nelson  was a decent and caring person who was widely respected  by people from  all parts of the political spectrum, which is part of the reason why he remained in office for 20 years .  As a Ministerial Assistant for David Zirnhelt in 1996-97 I came to appreciate  not only Zirnhelt’s knowledge of this region and its people and his extensive knowledge of forestry and land use issues, but also his incredible work ethic, as he strove to reach every corner of  Cariboo South  on weekends despite his busy schedule as a Cabinet Minister in the Harcourt and Clark NDP governments.  Those efforts clearly paid off, as he won three straight elections in what had been the most Socred riding in the province in Alex Fraser’s day.

 No doubt supporters of Donna Barnett could also sing her praises , based on her long history as mayor of 100 Mile House and her own deep roots in the area.   If Dick Harris  hasn’t done as much  as the others to earn his long tenure as  federal MP, it is probably because he hasn’t had to in a riding that is more solidly conservative than his former riding (Prince-George Bulkley Valley) had been . For him, the biggest challenge has been  winning his own party’s  nomination, as when  he narrowly staved off a challenge by Dr. Elmer Thiessen in 2004.

In a less partisan vein, I was encouraged  by Nathan Cullen’s attempt in last year’s federal NDP leadership contest to at least try to cooperate with other parties.   I gave my support to Nathan’s campaign largely because such an extraordinary strategy is necessary in order to shake up politics in the federal riding.  I even had a plan ready if Cullen had won the leadership:  to approach former Ulkatcho  chief Lynda Price to run as a candidate with the endorsement of both Liberal and New Democratic parties in the next federal election. (Having her run as an independent would neatly avoid the problem of persuading one party to support the other’s candidate).   As it turned out, Nathan lost the leadership bid and Lynda had just enrolled in law school, so I never found out whether the idea would have flown.

Mark Crawford is a political scientist at Athabasca University . He can be reached at

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