Column published in The Kamloops Daily News, Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008
I have high hopes for Cathy McLeod.
I say that as a constituent, and as a newspaper editor, and I mean it sincerely.
My hope is that she’ll abandon her “I have a lot to learn” approach and knuckle down to being a student of the job. And I hope the rest of us can now put to rest the “Cathy Who?” putdown — she’s Cathy McLeod, that’s who, and she’s our MP.
I hope that, as she gains more confidence, she’ll come out of her shell when it comes to answering questions about current issues.
I’ve only met her a couple of times, and exchanged only a few words, but I’ve certainly watched her. My impression is that she is a nice person, not arrogant, not defensive, a bit awkward, but one who will take genuine interest in the issues brought to her by constituents.
I confess, one big reason I want her to succeed is that I’d rather not spend the next several years engaged in confrontation with our MP, which is the way it was, unfortunately, with Betty Hinton.
Not that I was the only one who didn’t get along with Hinton. The list would start with the current mayors of Kamloops and Cache Creek, quite a few councillors, most local media, and constituents who had the temerity to challenge her government’s record, and go from there.
Since Hinton once accused me of not getting along with her because she’s a woman, I’m a little sensitive about criticizing female politicians, and doubly want McLeod to be the kind of MP who is forthright, accessible, and non-judgmental.
I’m hoping she will not reply to letters from students with lectures about their grammar, who will not dress down local politicians for supposedly not knowing how to fill out application forms, who will take credit only for funding she actually obtains, and who will answer phone calls from reporters rather than sending emails about how busy she is.
I hope, too, she’s not just another MP who views the world as being divided into two types of people — those who are members of her party/government, and those who are always wrong.
I hope, and expect, she’ll continue to demonstrate grace, which is something both Hinton and NDP candidate Michael Crawford fell a little short of on election night.
Hinton just never could resist taking a shot, though she tried to disguise it. Her “I’ve been a lady for the last eight years” preamble to grousing about Crawford’s frequent criticism of her was just a little odd.
As for Crawford, he made the obligatory trip to McLeod’s party to congratulate her after the writing was on the wall, but when he shook her hand he just had to give a mini-campaign speech about her obligation to work for the hard-done-by in society.
For heaven sakes, there are times when you should park the partisan politics, let bygones be bygones, and just have the good manners to congratulate your competition on a job well done.
McLeod responded to Crawford that she intended to be the MP for all the people of Kamloops Thompson Cariboo, not just those who voted for her. It was the right answer, in a similar vein to the way she answered combative comments about her by other candidates at pre-election forums.
For those who say party policies are more important than the individual, I suggest the manner in which a politician empathizes with people is just as important as the policy book.
In that regard, I read an interesting comment this week about the U.S. presidential campaign.
“A candidate may well change his or her position on, say, universal health care or Bosnia,” Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair wrote. “But he or she cannot change the fact — if it happens to be a fact — that he or she is a pathological liar, a dimwit or a proud ignoramus.”
Most anyone can learn to be a savvy politician, but we’re all prisoners of our psychological makeup, and we can’t just set aside ego and the other baggage we were born with when we enter politics. At this early juncture, it looks very much as though McLeod will handle herself just fine.
So fine, in fact, that the seeming ineptness of the local Conservative constituency association in failing to hold a nomination meeting despite months of warning now takes on the appearance of brilliance. After all, who can argue with success?
Meanwhile, the Liberals are trying to pick themselves up off the sidewalk. Ken Sommerfeld’s plummet to the near-bottom of the vote was par for the course for Liberals in this election. Tuesday wasn’t a good night for Liberals, and a couple of good friends of Kamloops were lost to us.
London West MP Sue Barnes, who acted for several years as the shadow MP for Kamloops, lost to her Conservative opponent by 1,700 votes.
Barnes was a huge help in making contacts in Ottawa as Kamloops went after federal funding for various projects. In appreciation, I once presented her with a framed print of a Kamloops cityscape by local artist Steve Mennie, which she hung in her constituency office.
Don Bell was defeated in North Vancouver. He and I met on a sponsored trip to Beijing several years ago, shortly after he was first elected. One memorable night there, I attended a Chinese-style wedding ceremony in which he and his wife renewed their vows.
Bell later became chair of the B.C. Liberal caucus in Ottawa, and proved helpful in dealing with Kamloops issues.
On the other hand, Hedy Fry, supposedly always at risk of being defeated, won again in Vancouver Centre. Fry flew into Kamloops in the midst of the 2003 wildfire season to take the lead in offering federal assistance to the area.