What Cumberland County lacks in size it makes up for in the quality and character of its people. We punch above our weight when it comes to leadership talent. However, competing for our rightful share of the province’s largesse, with just three per cent of the province’s population, demands that we not waste an ounce of the talent we have. And, we can’t afford to see it squandered in playing the political party game.
This article suggests a couple of changes in how we might better participate in future provincial electoral activities. Firstly, we should be encouraging our top political talent in Cumberland County to compete for our two provincial seats, as “independent” candidates with no political party affiliations. Secondly, not being tied to any political clans, we should use our two legislature votes as “leverage” with whoever is in power to make changes to the benefit of our community.
To illustrate our current squandering of talent, our two MLAs are fine products of our county …but so were their political adversaries; and where are they now? I voted for Tory Rushton for his solid reputation in our Oxford community. If I had been more familiar with the record of Scott Lockhart, the Liberal candidate, I might have voted for him instead; just as if they were competing as independents.
Lockhart’s ambitions were quashed in a well-fought contest with Rushton, but his leadership experience and qualifications from over 30 years in provincial and federal circles, now go untapped in a potential support role, because of his political background.
Similarly, Terry Farrell, the Liberal incumbent in Cumberland North lost to Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin in last year’s election. We are fortunate to have Smith-McCrossin as our representative in the legislature, but because of our highly politicised environment, we also lost access to Farrell’s know-how based on four years experience as an MLA in the governing Liberal party.
Both cases worked against building a “Team Cumberland” pool of experienced leadership resources taking up the county cause.
And while our current pair of elected MLAs work hard to do their best for our county, the strong Liberal majority government plays hardball with its opposition and has no reason to satisfy Cumberland County’s needs, unless they happen to fit in with their own priorities.
Just back in July, the province announced a $6-million infrastructure program to enhance the visitor experience at what it calls our iconic tourism sites. While that program has a three-year duration, there were no plans for investments in our county - not one cent - even though tourism has long been identified as a key driver of economic growth for the county. The local health care debacle also has its roots in Liberal neglect of our small but Conservative stronghold.
And as for the value of having political parties with different views of the world, what are the ideological differences that distinguish one party from another nowadays? Seriously, is our Liberal government behaving as a traditional “tax and spend” party, while it cuts costs at the expense of unionised government workers?
Similarly, the recently defeated Quebec Liberals turned their economy around in just four years by drastically cutting government costs at the expense of its workers…but Quebecers were looking for change after sixteen years of Liberal rule. Go figure.
You can’t blame our electorate being increasingly cynical about the whole political process. In our 2017 provincial election only half of eligible voters cast their votes, with only a third of that half voting for the Liberal party. Yet the Liberals rule the province as if massively supported by the bulk of the population.
Also, watch how small players in the game of politics are beginning to create significant leverage for themselves, such as in British Columbia where the Green Party with just three seats supported an NDP government, conditional on them opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline.
More recently in New Brunswick we have the Green Party and People’s Alliance parties, with three seats apiece, wheeling and dealing with the two major parties for support to their own causes. And just last week in Quebec, while the federalist CAQ party achieved a massive majority with a seat count of 74, the three other parties including the Liberals, PQ and Quebec Solidaire, will surely be forming alliances to leverage their own causes.
There is no reason why we could not also gain significant leverage from our two seats, in areas that matter to us, if occupied by independent MLAs, particularly if the next election produces a minority government or a slim majority, both of which are very likely. What is there to lose?
As for the practicality of independent representatives in legislatures…., the government of Nunavut, Canada’s newest territory, deliberately opted for an elected assembly without political parties, but with 22 independently elected members. This arrangement works just fine even to removing their premier from office for poor performance by a majority vote of the members earlier this year. That’s impressive.
So, come next election time, likely 2021, do you intend to vote according to your political bias, which doesn’t seem to mean much nowadays, or would you consider voting not for a political party, but for talented independent individuals, that have the welfare of our community as their primary concern?
Alan Walter is a retired professional engineer living in Oxford. He was born in Wales and worked in Halifax. He spends much of his time in Oxford, where he operates a small farm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.