BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko and Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall say they weren’t surprised the federal and provincial governments neglected to officially include them in the grand opening of Ward Street Place last week — opting instead to bring in elected representatives from elsewhere — but feel the decision was disrespectful to voters and “bad manners.”
“This is par for the course,” Mungall told the Star, asserting government doesn’t like to include opposition members in positive announcements that occur in their ridings.
“I wouldn’t say I’m annoyed, I just think it’s their loss. It’s more courteous to respect the will of the local voters, take the partisan politics out of it and invite the local representatives. I’ll sum it up this way: it’s just bad manners.”
Both Mungall and Atamanenko were invited to the event by Nelson CARES, but neither could attend due to other commitments.
The government opted to bring in Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks and Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson to make the funding announcement and appear at the ribbon-cutting.
“I just show up and do the announcement. It’s not up to me in this case,” Wilks told the Star on the following Wednesday.
Before arriving at the Ward Street Place ceremony, Wilks spoke at a Rossland news conference alongside Atamanenko, but then had to rush to three more engagements in Nelson, the North Shore and in Kaslo.
“It was a great announcement — I think Ward Street Place and the shelter are going to be great, and I hope they can continue to expand the program which I think they can.”
Wilks said there’s more funding available from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
“They are great funding opportunities out there not only for Ward Street Place but for any project of this type.”
But since this is such good news for his riding, Atamanenko finds it strange he wasn’t officially included.
“If Mayor [Deb] Kozak goes to another town on semi-official business it would be inconceivable not to contact the local mayor. I’ll echo Michelle’s thoughts: I think this is disrespectful, but it’s not Wilks himself — it’s the this government’s policy.”
He said it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
“Why spend the money to fly people in when there’s a local MP who can make the announcement on their behalf? …It’s their whole ideology: they don’t want anyone else getting the credit.”
Atamanenko questioned what kind of message government is trying to send.
“What are they trying to say: if you’re in a government riding you’ll get more money? We still get out share of funding, here in an opposition riding, so it doesn’t make any sense. I always thank David for coming around with his big fat chequebook.”
Mungall said she’s been experiencing this since she was elected.
“The same thing happened with the Olympics. As local representatives we just assumed we were getting invitations.”
But they didn’t.
“It’s unnecessary and it really is disrespectful,” she said.