Darrel Stinson has never minced words and especially when it comes to the democratic process.
And that’s not unexpected as the Spallumcheen resident rose from humble roots as a ranch kid to serve as Okanagan-Shuswap MP from 1993 to 2006. It provided the one-time prospector and store owner with a voice and the ability to stand up for what he believed in.
Given the opportunities Canada provided him, Stinson is serious about the fundamental bond between rank-and-file citizens and government.
That’s why he gets frustrated when he hears that many Canadians will not cast a ballot in the Oct. 19 election.
“When you think of what was sacrificed to give us the vote and then people don’t vote, I don’t understand. People died for us,” he says referring to the two world wars and other conflicts.
“To say the hockey game or Dancing with the Stars is more important than voting, doesn’t make sense.”
It’s often said that people don’t vote because of rampant cynicism. They believe that no matter what, elected officials are only there for themselves and will ignore the wishes of constituents.
However, Stinson says, based on his experiences in the House of Commons, that a lot of good people are sent to Ottawa from various political stripes and the public is their priority.
“For the most part, they do listen. I hope they still do.”
In an attempt to turn the tide and increase future voter participation, Stinson would like to see more emphasis placed on government and civic responsibilities in the classroom.
He was heartened to hear that 70 Clarence Fulton Secondary students recently attended an all candidates forum for their social studies class.
“I used to love going to the schools and talking to them,” he said.
But he was discouraged to hear that at another forum, some in the crowd yelled at candidates and disrupted the proceedings.
“It doesn’t matter which party, they have put their lives on hold and their family’s, and when their family is sitting there and hear that, it’s upsetting,” said Stinson, who gained a reputation himself for being aggressive in the House.
“If you (hecklers) have that much guts, run for office yourself. Have respect for the candidates.”
Like many Canadians, Stinson is watching the TV news and reading the papers leading up to the election. He isn’t surprised by the tone.
“You always hear the negatives and not the positives. It’s not much different than when I was running,” he said.
Stinson still doesn’t put much stock in opinion polls, adding that the numbers can distract a candidate or party from the job at hand.
“I always looked at it that I was running from behind the pack and I did what I could to get elected,” he said.
With some predicting a tight three-way race between the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP nationally, Stinson is hopeful his Tories can earn a majority. But he admits there is always a level of uncertainty.
“With most elections, we were trailing and then when the polls closed, we pulled through.”
And that’s why every vote counts.