EDITORIAL: Provincial political parties just don’t get it

When all candidates sing off the same hymn sheet, how does that serve local constituencies?

The times are changing — politics like they used to be just won’t cut it any longer. The two major parties in B.C. have not received that memo.

Want to change a strong, independent thinker into a boring robot who is force-fed lines for the cameras and notebooks?

Get her to run for a political party in B.C.

Parksville city Coun. Sue Powell is the latest example of this affliction. She will be acclaimed Sunday as the NDP’s candidate in the next provincial election, May 9, 2017.

As a city councillor for the past 12 years, Powell has been effective. Often she has been a rudder for a council that likes to go off course. She also hasn’t been afraid to make some passionate, seemingly-spontaneous remarks, like the time she suggested businesses could pay a living wage if they didn’t sock away so much money in offshore accounts. Yes, she’s decidedly left on the political spectrum, but more often than not, Powell seems to have done her homework on city issues and if she is short on information she asks for clarity from the experts.

Now she enters a world where none of that seems to matter. Her first quotes, as provided by the NDP constituency association this week in advance of her acclamation:

“Every day it gets harder for people, as costs rise and important public services like schools and hospitals are cut and cut,” Powell said. “From all the things we’ve seen from Christy Clark, she hasn’t been working for us, she’s just looking out for people at the top.”

First, there is no hospital in the constituency Powell is trying to win, Parksville-Qualicum. Second, the school closures were mostly related to declining enrolment, plain and simple. Is Powell taking shots at the local school board for the tough decisions it had to make a few years ago?

Third, last we checked, Christy Clark is the premier and represents West Kelowna. Michelle Stilwell is the incumbent B.C. Liberal candidate here and likely Powell’s main competition for the seat.

But no, the NDP machine needs everyone to stay on message, which apparently is to attack Christy Clark. Issues specific to Parksville-Qualicum need not apply.

Stilwell was no better her first two years as an MLA, seemingly having to check with head office before she said anything. It has been marginally better the last year or so, but the party discipline, if that’s what one calls it, is equally strangling in both the Liberal and NDP camps.

What all this old-style party politics does is rob people of decent debates about local issues. It also robs us of two smart, strong characters who must now stick to the scripts written in Victoria and Vancouver. And the strategy flies in the face of where the relationships between representatives and their constituents are going.

— Editorial by John Harding

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