BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Political games are afoot

The NDP should be presenting a viable alternative for voters instead of taking cheap shots

Richard Rolke is a columnist and senior reporter with The Morning Star.

Richard Rolke is a columnist and senior reporter with The Morning Star.

B.C.’s official opposition is circling Vernon-Monashee like a hungry shark.

It was two weeks ago that the NDP issued a blistering press release against Liberal MLA Eric Foster and comments he made about homelessness while meeting with Vernon council.

“Eric Foster said his government could do more, but it refuses to. That’s simply not acceptable,” stated the release.

And a few days later, I received an e-mail from staff at NDP head office.

It stated, “Thought you might find this interesting – considering he was at an event regarding bookkeeping today.”

The he they were referring to was Foster and the event was his visit with Okanagan College students training in office administration and bookkeeping.

Attached to the NDP e-mail were links to stories going back to 2013 when there were questions about renovations to Foster’s constituency office.

At the time, then-auditor general John Doyle had reviewed invoices for work done at the leased office, including a furnace and plumbing.

“The scope of the work done under these expenditures seems beyond the alterations typically made to customize a rental property for the needs of a specific tenant,” stated Doyle.

The legislative assembly recovered $67,000 paid to the landlords from Foster’s constituency allowance, and Foster always defended his actions.

“If the comptroller didn’t want to pay the bill or felt things didn’t qualify, they wouldn’t have paid,” he said in 2013.

B.C.’s conflict of interest commissioner at the time also cleared Foster of any conflict for leasing office space owned by the family of his executive assistant.

So it’s interesting that three years later, the NDP are reminding local media of the  office renos.

The obvious reason is the NDP believe  Foster’s grasp on Vernon-Monashee is weak leading up to May’s election.

Yes, Foster should be held to account for his actions or non-actions as an MLA, but the NDP are simply playing games.

Case in point, the press release about Foster’s comments on homelessness only served up rhetoric and no solutions on how to address this complex matter.

In terms of the e-mail, the NDP are simply trying to make Foster look bad. But the chances of that so-called scandal sticking are slim given that it was three years ago and it didn’t stop him from topping the polls in 2013.

Voters have moved on to other issues and it’s those, such as Stickle Road, that may decide Foster’s future this May.

What may also stick in the election is the public’s distaste for low-ball tactics to earn political points, and specifically the NDP issuing e-mails and press releases simply to stir the pot.

And while the NDP are rehashing past history to make Liberals look bad, remember that tables can be easily turned.

What’s stopping Foster from resurrecting the debate over the official opposition collecting more than $500,000 from constituency office budgets for party purposes?

“How do they justify taking $200 out of every constituency office every month to send it to Victoria to hire someone to work for the party?” said Foster in 2013.

“Mine was disclosed, day one, receipts paid. It (NDP actions) is totally against the rules.”

In the end, the NDP should be focused on providing voters with a viable option to the Liberals instead of partisanship. If not, the chickens could come home to roost at election time.