Recognized for his large cowboy hat and his outspoken conservatism, former MP for the Okanagan-Shuswap Darrel Stinson is breaking his 14 year silence to reflect on the state of politics.
Stinson made a name for himself by ignoring political correctness and was often at the centre of controversy. He is probably best known across the country for his 1997 outburst in the House of Commons after opposition MP John Cannis heckled him by calling Stinson a racist, to which Stinson replied, “Do you have the fortitude or the gonads to stand up and come across here and say that to me, you son of a (b****)?” before crossing the floor toward Cannis. The speaker later cited both men for unparliamentary language.
Stinson left office in 2005 when he was diagnosed with cancer, and his political commentary went silent until now. Today, Stinson lives in Vernon and said after leaving office he wanted to be near the mountains and the lakes again, but he looks back at his time in office fondly.
“I wish I was 20 years younger and in better shape health-wise because I’d go back again,” he said, chuckling. “I don’t know if I’d last there nowadays, I’d probably get kicked out, but I’d absolutely love to go back.”
Though over a decade has passed since retiring, he said he’s still very invested in politics.
“I wish I was well enough to get back into politics. I can’t make it to a lot of the meetings anymore because of my health but I’m still really interested,” he said, before praising his constituents. “They were the best people.”
He represented the region from 1993 until the dissolution of the House of Commons of Canada for the 2006 federal election (though his illness forced him to retire before that time). When asked about his career and his views on the politics today, he spoke with the same vigor he was known for years prior.
“I think we need to quit being politically correct. Today, politicians are all afraid of the reporter. They’re all afraid to be branded this and branded that. The way I see it is, why don’t you just say it instead of having fear control your agenda?” said Stinson.
“People accused me of being too straightforward, and I could have been quiet or agreeable, but the people elected me and they elected me to get in there and say something and try and get the change. I always came back and asked the people where they wanted me to go with it because, the way I saw it was, I’m not there to force my morality on the people, I’m there for them to force theirs upon me. That’s my job and they’re the ones (who) paid my wages.”
While in office, he often used media as a resource and a soundboard to find out what the people wanted.
“Opposition ministers didn’t like a lot of what we were doing or telling the media, but our job was not to go back there and be liked by the opposition and that’s just the way I looked at it. Some of the guys had a problem with me at the caucus because they just figured I was stubborn, which I was I guess but I didn’t think much of compromise — once you start to compromise, when do you stop? They used to say, ‘Just put a little water in the wine, Darrel.’ and I used to say, ‘Well you can no longer call it wine then, can you?’”
Encouraging people to vote, he said he believes that everything in society is an extension of politicians in office.
“You’re going to see the change, there’s no doubt about it, because I think people are tired of the wishy-washy politician,” he said. “It’s time to stand up and the more you talk to people, the more you find out — I hate retirement but there’s not much that I can do about it. A lot of people think I’m dead because of the cancer, but the ones I get to talk to are saying the same thing. It’s a sad thing to see because you have young people who have to make a living in this country, but what are we leaving for them?”
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