Let’s cut Peter Milobar some slack on the Ajax file

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
November 19, 2016 - 5:00am

Let’s cut Peter Milobar some slack, shall we?

He’s been getting a lot of flak over his decision to run for the Kamloops-North Thompson BC Liberal nomination while he continues to sit as mayor.

He gets hell because he doesn’t live in the riding he wants to represent. He gets hell for not resigning as mayor while he seeks the nomination. He gets hell for deciding that if he does get the nomination, he still won’t resign as mayor, and won’t take a leave of absence until the writ is dropped. He gets hell for potentially causing a by-election he doesn’t intend to pay for.

Now he’s catching hell for continuing to shepherd the Ajax file as mayor, while he seeks the nomination for a political party that is famously pro-resource development and that he might possibly represent in Victoria if he wins both the nomination and the election.

That, say his critics, creates a perception of conflict of interest that he should avoid by excusing himself from all debates and decisions having to do with Ajax.

Bosh, I say.

Liberal members will vote today on who they want to carry the banner in the Kamloops-North Thompson riding next May. All three candidates for the nomination are excellent prospects. Milobar has the profile but Steven Puhallo and Mike Grenier are no strangers to public life either. Puhallo has deep roots in the party and in the riding; Grenier has brought energy to the race by laying out policies with his “Fresh Ideas” campaign.

Everybody should have a chance to step up and offer political service. The fact you’re a sitting mayor shouldn’t stand in your way. Maybe Milobar could have handled some things differently, but let’s give him a chance to work through it.

When it comes to the proposed copper mine, anti-Ajaxers are bothered by his continued involvement in negotiating a community benefits package and fully engaging in council discussions of the mine, but they should get over it.

They assume Milobar is pro-Ajax, but unless I missed something, he has remained firmly nailed to the fence even if he fails to hide his annoyance at some of the councillors who want to stop the mine from happening.

They also assume this if-it-doesn’t-move-develop-it BC Liberal government will be heavily inclined to approve the project. And they further assume that Milobar, if he becomes part of that government, would be a toady to Christy Clark.

That’s a lot of assumptions, and you know what they say about assumptions. Milobar hasn’t exactly shown strong leadership on Ajax, he appears cranky and defensive at times, and his vision for Kamloops is foggy, but he hasn’t given any reason to think he’s anybody’s toady. If the provincial government does something he disagrees with, he calls “Bullshit” — literally.

His challenge, if he’s the candidate and if he’s elected, will be to not shuffle his political principles and his candor to the back burner in favour of the party line, but we shouldn’t assume that would happen.

In the meantime, he’s fully capable of continuing to direct traffic on the Ajax file. If council ever does come out with an official position on Ajax — which would be helpful prior to the provincial election — the mayor is one of nine votes.

If anyone expects perfection from politicians and from the process, it will be a long wait. If Milobar loses the nomination, the issue will become academic. If he wins, well, if we want good people to represent us, we can’t always expect them to stay locked up in neat little political boxes.

Mel Rothenburger blogs at armchairmayor.ca and can be contacted at [email protected]