Greg Nesteroff

COLUMN: Life in an anti-bellwether riding

In politics, a bellwether riding is one that perpetually elects a member of government. We must be an anti-bellwether riding.

A bellwether is something that indicates a trend.

In politics, a bellwether riding is one that perpetually elects a member of government. The best example in BC is Kamloops, which has elected government MLAs in every provincial election since 1903 with only one exception.

From a federal perspective, we must be an anti-bellwether riding.

The last time we had a government MP was from 1984-88, when Progressive Conservative Bob Brisco represented Kootenay West in parliament. Brisco was also MP during Joe Clark’s short-lived minority government of 1979-80.

Prior to that, you have to go back to 1930-35 when Conservative Billy Esling served the riding while R.B. Bennett was prime minister and 1912-21 when Kaslo’s Robert Green was an MP in the Unionist governments of Robert Borden and Arthur Meighen.

So our riding has been in opposition for 83 of the last 100 years including a present streak of 27 years and counting.

West Kootenay voters seem to have a knack or natural inclination to vote for the party that doesn’t end up in power.

BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko has spent all nine of his years in opposition. His predecessor, Jim Gouk, who belonged to the Reform Party, Canadian Alliance, and Conservatives from 1993-2006, likewise always sat on that side of the house, as did New Democrat Lyle Kristiansen from 1980-84 and 1988-93.

That said, I’ve never thought it much mattered if your MP is a government member. They can be equally effective or ineffective regardless of their political stripes. To believe otherwise is a more cynical view of politics than I’d care to accept.

I’m put off by candidates who encourage you to vote for them on the basis that their party will form government, which is highly presumptuous and also leads me to ask: so what? Are they implying — or outright telling us — a riding with a government member will benefit from pork-barrelling and that they condone it?

I’m not sure I buy the argument that ridings with opposition members are ignored or abandoned when it comes to government funding, although it is certainly true that announcements in such ridings are always made by the nearest government MP, lest the public get any notion their own MP might have had something to do with it.

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