Falkland deserves better

BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Richard Rolke takes aim at Colin Mayes for not taking a stand for Falkland

Politics can be the art of passion — taking a stand, sticking up for the disenfranchised.

But you wouldn’t know it from listening to Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes.

When approached about Falkland possibly being torn out of his riding and tossed in with Kelowna, Summerland, Merritt and Princeton,  there wasn’t any inflection or tone. The response left one wondering if he supports or opposes the move

“We have to carve up ridings some how but this is just the first proposal,” he said.

Yes, there are reasons for redistributing federal boundaries to address shifts in population and ensure equitable representation. But beyond the dry, text-book explanation, there is the issue of community identity.

Once again, Mayes was pressed. Does he have any concerns about Falkland getting the short-shift from the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission, the independent body responsible for scribbling new lines on a map.

His rather mundane response was, “Discussions will be ongoing and we will come up with recommendations if we can’t live with them.”

I don’t doubt that Mayes has a genuine interest in Falkland’s well-being but where’s the identification with people he has served since 2006 and the raw emotion over the prospect of losing them?

Mayes’ subdued handling of the situation was more than outdone by Rene Talbot, Falkland’s veteran regional district director.

Never one to mince words, Talbot took dead aim at the proposal.

“It’s a bit of a joke,” he said, pointing out that new boundaries would effectively strip Falkland of any reasonable federal representation.

“Where would our MP be located? If you wanted to have a meeting with their office staff, you’d have to drive to Kelowna or wherever they are located.”

And geography would become even more challenging during the winter when snow and ice can make roads treacherous.

Given that there’s more people in Kelowna’s Orchard Park Mall on a daily basis than live in Falkland, will some distant, far-off MP actually give residents the time they deserve or will they only be seen when there is campaigning to be done?

The bottom line is that breaking with electoral tradition is misguided.

Falkland is tied in with the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District and its teenagers go to high school in Armstrong. Vernon is a source of jobs, shopping, banking and doctors. In fact, when overcrowding at Vernon Jubilee Hospital was dominating headlines, some of the most vocal critics of the provincial government came from the town known for its stampede.

Talbot has vowed to take the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission head on, and it’s likely other Falkland residents will join the fight.

But the battle would gain far more traction if the community’s man in Ottawa was firmly at their side. After six years, no one should be able to provide a stronger argument for Falkland remaining in Okanagan-Shuswap than Mayes.

But if he isn’t willing to make some noise and support those who have supported him, then it’s time to raise a giant white flag on Gyp Mountain.

richard@vernonmorningstar.com