Darrel Stinson was known for strong opinions as a Reform MP, but he was also compassionate and outgoing. (YouTube photo)

BEYOND THE HEADLINES: It just doesn’t matter

Vilifying people who have different political views is a growing problem in society

Polarized B.C. wasn’t some obscure concept in the ’70s and ’80s for me, but a way of life.

Politics wasn’t discussed, as some family members were firmly Social Credit and anti-union, while others rallied behind everything NDP and labour. There was little chance of having a reasonable discussion, as yelling generally prevailed. Elections were an absolute nightmare, and there were times when these relatives didn’t talk because of the campaign animosity.

I raise these sordid details because British Columbians just wrapped up an election that persisted far beyond the mandated 30-day shelf life.

And just like the old Socred/NDP era of 30 years ago, this province is also deeply divided, although the players are now the NDP and the Liberals. Mud was slung for months as both parties tried to make the other not only look incompetent but morally bankrupt.

Obviously it’s easy to get emotional, especially when such critical issues are at stake, whether it’s health care, affordable housing, education or employment. Everyone has an idea of what should be done.

However, what concerns me is the increasing vilification that seems to go hand-in-hand with differences of opinion. Just because someone votes differently than you doesn’t mean their head is spinning and spewing like Linda Blair. Liberals don’t have horns and New Democrats don’t have pointy tails.

Largely because of my job, I have got to know a lot of people and many of them are fundamentally different than me when it comes to politics or the priorities facing our community. But after spending hour upon hour together at a council meeting or at a social function, you begin to see past the rhetoric and learn there is a human being standing there.

Case in point was the man in the stetson, Darrel Stinson. Elected as a Reform MP in 1993, Stinson was known for occasionally being aggressive, making wild statements and having a very conservative outlook. That said, you couldn’t find a more caring person. No matter the circumstances, he always asked first about my family and made sure things were going OK for me at home and work. I saw how he interacted with people and he earned my respect.

As a kid, I heard a lot of bad things about B.C.’s Social Credit government so I was apprehensive when as a reporter, I first met Lyall Hanson, Vernon’s then-MLA and cabinet minister. Any concerns, though, quickly evaporated as Hanson was always warm and welcoming, and open to any questions — a true gentleman.

On the other hand, I have known people who have similar political beliefs as me, but I won’t be hanging out with them.

What I’m trying to say is that there must be far more to who we are than how we vote or our attitudes about the free-enterprise system. Shouldn’t our true focus be on the things that matter — our families and communities, and trying to get along?

There was hope Sunday as I travelled out to a flood-soaked Lumby. Election signs dotted the landscape but those so-called important allegiances were cast aside as neighbours pitched together to fill sandbags. It was something I won’t forget.