EDITORIAL: Kissing the rings of political Dons

More than 1,500 local government officials are gathered in Victoria this week for the UBCM conference

Forgive us if it’s a bad analogy, but this reminds us of scenes from the first two Godfather movies.

People line up to see the Don on the occasion of his daughter’s birthday or son’s first communion, submitting requests for various acts or funding for various projects. The theory is, traditionally, the Don does not deny requests on these special family days.

More than 1,500 municipal politicians will be lining up to see the Dons of the provincial government this week at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) in Victoria. The government ministers, their henchmen, er, assistants at their sides, sit in anti-rooms off the main conference hall, entertaining everyone from Ashcroft to Zeballos.

The people kissing the rings of these Dons want funding for roads, sewers, affordable housing — there’s no shortage to the depth and breadth of their requests.

OK, we’ve stretched this analogy as far as it can go, too far probably. No one is asking provincial government ministers to make someone sleep with the fishes. We don’t think so, anyway. And, most importantly, this is not a special family occasion where the government ministers feel obliged to say yes to all requests.

The similarities end at this — the value, perceived or real, of face time with decision makers.

This face time could be invaluable for many municipal politicians on Vancouver Island who are looking to fix a bridge or build a homeless shelter. That’s because there is only a small percentage of Islanders — specifically those in Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Courtenay and Comox — who are represented in Victoria by someone who sits at the adult table of government and not in opposition. Only two constituencies on Vancouver Island — none in the 300,000-plus Victoria area — have B.C. Liberal MLAs. Our system, especially in polarized B.C., remains dominated by political parties. A backbench NDP member may not have as much luck getting funds to fix potholes as the small-town mayor from his/her riding would during the UBCM.

So, starting today, these mayors and councillors line up to get some face time with ministers of the Crown. It’s possible this is the best year to ask — it’s the final UBCM conference before the next provincial election, which is only eight short months away.

For taxpayers, it would be nice to see some concrete results from this junket — thousands are spent to send all these councillors and mayors to the UBCM.

At least Islanders didn’t have to foot the bill for ferry rides this year.                                    — Editorial by John Harding

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