Municipal gathering is the real stuff

This week, Victoria puts the lie to Premier Christy Clark’s glib characterization of the capital as a dead zone

This week, Victoria puts the lie to Premier Christy Clark’s glib and dismissive characterization of the capital as a dead zone where oxygen-starved political zombies do the dance of the living dead under a glazed bubble.

This week, the capital is host to the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM), a gathering of more than 1,000 civic leaders from Fort Nelson to Port Renfrew.

This is not an excuse for a party. These municipal and regional district leaders recognize they are here on the very thin dimes of their local ratepayers and they tend to work their buns off.

Having covered this event for years, I am always struck by the level of engagement between delegates and senior levels of government.

This week, we have even seen the consolidation of a mayors’ caucus. More than 100 of them met Mon., Sept. 24, to firm up an agenda for dealing with the provincial government, which is routinely guilty of downloading its fiscal pressures on the backs of local government.

This is real stuff. It’s important. It’s gritty. And, it is often more productive than we give it credit for. What it is not, is an example of what the premier deems to be a dead zone.

When it was reported that the premier thinks Victoria is a “sick culture” without “real people,” Clark said she was just referring to the legislature, which she described as an “enclosed bubble.”

She said her real job is getting out of Victoria to meet the real folks and talk about real issues. In support of this retro-spin — worthy of Mitt Romney — she embarked on a whirlwind mini-campaign with election-style promises and photo ops at BCIT’s aerospace campus in Richmond and at UBC’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna.

For Clark to write off the legislative precinct as an enclosed bubble bereft of worthy endeavours is political myopia.  For thousands of citizens over the years it has been the place where their passions and frustration could find expression.

I remember when Clayoquot anarchists stormed the legislature in the ’90s, broke the hip of a commissionaire and shattered the glass door to the chamber. What happened that day wasn’t pretty, but no one pretended it wasn’t real or relevant.

On Oct. 22, hundreds, maybe thousands, of environmentalists and representatives of 80 First Nations will take part in a “Defend our Coast” sit-in on the legislature lawn to protest the Enbridge pipeline and oil tanker traffic. Irrelevant? Hardly.

At the other end of the spectrum the little things also mean a lot. When the House is sitting, MLAs have an opportunity to celebrate the good works of citizens in their ridings.

For many, this recognition is pretty special. One day it is a valued resident of Vanderhoof, the next day it is folks in Richmond organizing a charity run. It never makes the news, but it’s real — it’s B.C.

Premier Clark just doesn’t get it. Back in 2005, Clark left the legislature full of praise for its dedicated people and their tireless stewardship. Seven years later, it is Clark who is trapped in a bubble of her own design. She’s spent so much of the past year campaigning that she has forgotten what it is like to govern.

Maybe her bubble will burst Friday when she has to stand up in front of a thousand UBCM delegates and curry their favour. M

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