MLA by e-mail?

Some residents getting vocal about Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell's athletic competition schedule

Never has a gold medalist been so vilified.

Well, since Ben Johnson anyway.

Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell is taking some heat from letter writers and others for continuing her career as a world champion Paralympic athlete.

We see both sides to this scenario, perhaps more than two sides. At least one letter writer has beaten us up over the issue too, saying we haven’t done enough to criticize Stilwell over her absences from the constituency. Fair enough.

It should be noted we have seen Stilwell at numerous community events in the short time she has been MLA — basically doing an MLA’s job.  So, it’s not like she won the election and disappeared.

Frankly, we were more troubled with her taking a couple weeks off right after earning the Liberal nomination. She didn’t have the MLA’s job yet — she was auditioning or interviewing for it, if you will — and split to Australia to train. We have to say we thought that showed some disdain for voters, but we accepted her explanation that it was a commitment she felt she needed to honour. But it wasn’t the nationals or the world championships.

When she went to Moncton for the national championships about a month ago, Stilwell was in and out in record time, spending more time on a plane than in Moncton. But she basically raced alone in that event and, as a Paralympic champion and world record holder, should have been given a pass straight to the worlds so she could skip the nationals.

Stilwell will tell you she feels totally plugged in to her job as MLA and as an active member of the B.C. Liberal caucus who sits on some powerful committees (core review for one). We suspect she believes her phone, tablet and Internet access is all she needs. In fact, she was cheeky about that when asked about her trip to Australia: “Ever hear about technology?” she said.

Sure, but not everyone has access to, can understand how to use, or even wants to deal with their elected official through e-mail, Skype, Twitter, Facebook and text. Some people, especially in this, the region with the oldest demographic in the country, would like some face time with their MLA to discuss their issues. And that’s a fair request.

We believe Stilwell is a good role model for youth and others. We also believe the optics of Australia, Moncton and France are bad and she needs to spend more time in the area, which will be a battle considering how many cabinet committee responsibilities she has taken on. We suspect this will continue to be an issue for some constituents as long as she is our MLA.

— Editorial by John Harding

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