Politicians can’t be friends with everybody all the time

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
November 2, 2016 - 9:00am Updated: November 14, 2016 - 11:21am

“WHY CAN’T we all just be friends”, was once a favourite phrase and the go-to conflict resolution strategy of a family friend. Over time though, she came to realize and appreciate the value and need for leadership.

It’s called leadership for a reason and running a business or a government often means not being friends with everyone, every time. Nothing wrong with consensus building and taking advice but there comes a time when you have to earn the big bucks and make that decision.

These thoughts came to mind as Ajax temporarily moved back into the spotlight with their decision not to fund the additional $200,000 required to complete the City’s mine review. I’m not going to comment on that decision as it’s already been well worked over in the media.  However, I am going to comment on the comments that have appeared with each and every related story and opinion piece.

What I find fascinating is this persistent belief that those on Council opposed to Ajax should be kicked out of office as soon as possible. There is a theme in the comments that holds to the belief that the City’s approval of Ajax would be a slam-dunk once these particular councillors were removed from office.

I disagree. However, it was these social media criticisms that got me thinking about small town democracy and political leadership.

First off is the simple and undisputed fact that they were elected. If you didn’t vote for any of these pesky councillors that simply means your ideas and wants weren’t the wants shared by the majority of voters. That is just a plain and simple truth and it’s how democracy works. There were and are competing visions and the electorate gets to decided which ones most closely match theirs.

Our council was elected to represent the interests of 90,000 people. They were not elected to represent just a hundred, three hundred or even two thousand people, especially to the exclusion of the remaining 88,000 residents living here.

We all like to think we’re special and that our needs supersede everyone else’s. You see the ‘I’m special’ and ‘It’s all about me’ attitude everyday and everywhere. But you know what?  We’re not special and so city councils like ours must manage for the community as a whole and not just to special interests.

It’s not just about the mine, it’s all issues from the neighbour’s barking dog to rezoning applications, right up to and including mega projects like Ajax. It takes guts to take a stand.  Even more so for a politician, so I admire those on City Council who have shown leadership by taking the time to explain where they stand and why.

In so doing, it’s possible they have earned your ire but they should have earned your respect too, even if you didn’t and won’t be voting for them in any election.  Why?  Because unlike those who haven’t come out of the closet – and some may be on side with Ajax – these declared councillors are being honest and upfront with you. In the process they are also giving you every opportunity to prove they are wrong, why you are right and why you feel the majority of residents are on side with you.

Ranting about kicking them out of office isn’t going to change their minds. You need facts to support your bold declaration that pro Ajax is the de facto majority opinion in town. You may be right but remember, these councillors opposed to the mine were supported and elected by the majority of voters because of the views they held.

They have a vision of Kamloops and the future of our city that is not one you agree with and there is nothing wrong with your opposing that vision. Matter of fact, the same principles of democracy that got these people elected can also be used in an attempt to elect a team that supports your view of our future. All that is required is for you to get the majority of voters to agree with your opinions. Just like they did with theirs. It’s that easy and thankfully that’s how things work around here.

As for those councillors still sitting on the fence desperately in search of the mythical political nirvana of pleasing everyone, I’ve got some bad news. That is a fantasy world, a special mindset inhabited by failed politicians who bet their re-election chances on the false hope they could be friends with everybody.

Bill McQuarrie is a Kamloops entrepreneur. He can be contacted at [email protected]. He tweets @mcrider1.