Milobar could have headed off by-election talk months ago

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
May 16, 2017 - 5:00am
Image Credit: CFJC Today

KAMLOOPS — The last time I wrote about Peter Milobar and his penchant for secrecy, he seemed to think my comments and thoughts were about a conspiracy... A cabal of clandestine decision makers, engaged in some conspiratorial planning of the city’s future.

I was never sure how secrecy and conspiracy got intertwined but for him they did and now I find myself again writing about his tendency for not being open with those who have elected him.  

A few months ago and for whatever reason, Mr. Milobar decided the voters had no business knowing what, as the elected mayor of Kamloops, he would do if he decided to run for MLA. After deciding to run, he felt there was no need to let the electorate know what he’d do when the writ was dropped. And finally, after winning a seat in the legislature last week, we still don’t know if he’ll resign as mayor or simply take a leave of absence.

It should be noted that this column is written the day before city council meets, so I am assuming that shortly after reading this piece on Tuesday, you will likely know his decision. However, this unwillingness to share his decision earlier has, over the past few months, created uncertainty and shown some disrespect for the community he was elected to serve.  

There is no reason for this, other than that secrecy gene and a possible attitude problem towards those he was elected to serve and those he has worked with on council for so long.  

Definitely no conspiracy theory, but there’s certainly been no demonstration of trust towards the community that has supported him and his political ambitions for so many years.

What I now find interesting is this lack of openness is likely, to some degree, responsible for the recent announcement by Cindy Ross Friedman indicating she will be running for Mayor.

Ms. Friedman is a very credible contender and could quite possibly shake up the established order of things at city hall. She is smart, popular, has a handle on the youth vote, is openly opposed to Ajax and no matter the outcome, will shake up the old boy BC Liberal/Conservative establishment network that has run this town for many years.

Had Peter Milobar announced months ago that he would simply take an extended leave of absence, it would have taken the possibility of an early by-election right off the table. However, Peter didn’t do that and is now faced with an early challenge to heir apparent, Ken Christian. And it gets even more interesting.

When Mr. Christian tosses his hat into the mayoralty race, his council seat comes up for grabs. And last week on Facebook, Marg Spina indicated she would step down from council when Milobar leaves and would prefer a by-election to an interim appointment.  

Suddenly a by-election that could have been avoided through early disclosure may now open up two council seats and the mayor’s chair.

We know that Ms. Friedman is opposed to the Ajax Mine, so if elected, there is one vote change that is a certainty on council.  

Now suppose someone like Dan Hines, fresh off a Green Party election campaign, decides to run for one of those newly vacant council seats. He has excellent name recognition, was seen by both sides as an exceptional and knowledgeable speaker, is well versed on all issues and is opposed to Ajax.  

Then there’s Barb Nederpel, another candidate that built some serious creds with voters. I’m uncertain about her position on Ajax but if she were to run, she would certainly bring fresh ideas and ideologies to the debate.

None of this needed to happen but the secrecy and delays make it more difficult to forego what should now be the natural democratic process.  

When it was just the mayor’s seat, it was easy to use the cost of a by-election as the reason we had to live with an appointed mayor. That has changed, with residents beginning to show their displeasure at being left in the dark for so long.

The money excuse for a by-election is now off the table and it is about the democratic process and trust in and respect for the voter.