Consensus building in this province is a difficult proposition. Not quite an exercise in futility, but it’s in the neighbourhood.
Think of the varied forms of land we have. The regions of this province look very different from each other and have different challenges.
A Prince George winter looks nothing like January in Victoria. Nelson and Trail could not be more different than Chilliwack and Abbotsford.
The climate can shape people’s views on many subjects. It has a real effect on the economy and what can and cannot be done to create and sustain jobs and services.
The diversity of this province — both its land and people — is never more evident than it is every year at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference. To a city councillor from, say, Williams Lake, Vancouver and Victoria politicians must sound like they are from a distant land speaking an unfamiliar language when they talk about homelessness issues.
While this kind of diversity makes us a unique and enviable province, it also presents problems for politicians, especially the ones who are sent to Victoria as MLAs. It poses problems for political parties, too.
The NDP, for example, has a long history of support from trade unions. Huge forestry or mining or oil and gas projects can mean a lot of union jobs. But the NDP all has a strong faction that is, for the lack of a better term, green, people who do not support mega projects that scar the land.
The B.C. Liberals have different challenges, but with a similar theme of geographical/philosophical diversity.
Perhaps it’s just the age-old city/country debate, but it seems more complex than that in B.C.
It is, in a way, like trying to keep a country together, this B.C. consensus building exercise. The issues and people of New Brunswick, for example, are much different than those in Saskatchewan.
What is a party, a leader, an MLA to do? The easy answer is to keep tabs on what is being said on Main Street in your constituency and vote accordingly. But that’s naive — our powerful party system gets in the way of that form of simplicity and if you are a member of the governing party you have a wider responsibility for the entire province, not just your hometown.
There is no simple answer. Perhaps it is just a matter of holding on for a never-ending, bumpy ride. But we should never lose sight of the fact that this diversity should do more to make us a great place than it does to drive us apart.
— Editorial by John Harding