December 13, 2010
What do Bob Simpson, Bill Bennett, Blair Lekstrom and Vicki Huntington have in common? They’re all independent MLAs in the B.C. legislature, and they may be the wave of the future.
Simpson was kicked out of the NDP caucus for criticizing leader Carole James, but he has lost interest in returning to the party fold.
In an interview with reporters last week, he declared the days of two-party politics in B.C. are over.
“The kind of mess and turmoil that both the Liberal party and the NDP are in right now will cause people to demand a whole different kind of politics in the province.”
At first glance the four independents appear to be a mixed bag: Bennett was fired from the Liberal caucus for slamming leader Gordon Campbell and Blair Lekstrom quit over the mishandling of the HST. Only Huntington was elected as an independent.
What they have in common is a willingness to say what they think, regardless of the consequences, and to stand up for their constituents rather than toe a party line.
“Political parties were meant to be organizing tools, not ends in themselves,” Simpson said in a statement. “Today, the prospects of the party overshadow the needs of the electorate.”
He pointed to what he sees as “dictatorship in the premier’s office.”
Let’s imagine, then, that voters truly are fed up with party politics. What would be the next step? First, we need more people to run as independents in the next election.
Wouldn’t it be great if a high-profile candidate were to come forward in Kamloops with the promise of representing our best interests – politics be damned? It may seem like a fantasy, but if it can happen in other parts of B.C., why not here?
Now imagine what the legislature would be like if the majority of MLAs – or even all of them – were independents. Sheer chaos? It might be a bit disorganized at first, but it would certainly be in their best interests to get things sorted out quickly.
MLAs would be forced to form a consensus to get some of the major legislation passed. And on other items, they would have to convince at least a majority to follow their cause. Alliances would shift as priorities changed from policy to policy.
All the while they would be under the scrutiny of their electorates, who would be more engaged than ever with the prospect of an MLA who could easily be turfed by another independent at the next election.
Voter turnouts might actually be much higher, because people would believe their vote could make a difference. Low voter turnouts are often blamed on apathy, but with the cynicism that comes with party politics out of the way, we might see a return to idealism.
Is it all just a pipedream? Maybe, but change has to start somewhere.