Hodge: Welcome back Ben but about your leader

Charlie Hodge’s weekly column look at the Kelowna West byelection

By Charlie Hodge

Surprise, surprise, Ben Stewart is Kelowna West’s new MLA. Can you say Déjà’ vu?

The majority of British Columbians were not surprised Wednesday night to learn the popular, veteran B.C. politician was victorious in the provincial byelection on Valentine’s Day, despite speculation by some his ride to the top again might be rocky. When the tally was finished Stewart won the odd geographically and illogically designed riding with 56 percent of the vote.

Hopefully Stewart will retain his MLA seat for his full term this time around. Numerous voters were miffed back in 2013 when Stewart won his riding but Premier-elect Christy Clark took over Stewart’s seat in the legislature after she lost her riding in the same election.

I am pleased to see Ben back as our representative and am confident he will do a good job handling the wishes and concerns of residents of Kelowna West despite the fact that his constituents live in two somewhat polarized towns, often competing for the same toys.

I am also of the opinion that both the NDP and the Green candidates would have worked hard and done a good job. For a change, local voters had three great options.

What now remains to be seen is what, if any, portfolios or roles Ben will get in his spot as an opposition MLA and just how much attention his voice will get in Victoria. Certainly Ben is up to the task and I look forward to chats with him in the near future.

Ben has a lifetime family history in the area and understands the various issues we face here. A humble, hard working fellow, he does listen.

Stewart says his priority will be to increase access to affordable housing.

While I am happy with Stewart’s success I admit to feeling a tad nauseous already with newly crowned B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, who wasted no time jumping into a face-slapping negative rhetoric style of supposed leadership.

Earlier this week Wilkinson vowed that as the new Liberal leader he will, “ask so many tough questions in the legislature it will make their (NDP) skin crawl.”

Catchy, puffy, tough talk, but hardly progressive or positive and certainly not inspiring.

Clearly Wilkinson, like his predecessor, has not got over the thumping the Liberals took in the last election and has decided that confrontational and insulting posturing is more important than trying to move forward in a cooperative manner.

I fully understand the perceived need in provincial and federal politics to spew party dogma and do one’s best to make the opposition look stupid in order to regain lost power, however it does nothing to assist the economy or health of a province.

I was hoping Wilkinson would show some signs of strong leadership qualities and wisdom in his first few weeks or months as the new anointed one, earning some trust and respect back for his party. Perhaps he has failed to comprehend that his party had several years of running the ship and while they certainly had some successes the party ship ran aground last election after hitting several social icebergs.

Immediately picking up and swinging the negative, angry sceptre recently abdicated by Christy is not about to impress anyone, and certainly will not make Ben’s new role any easier.

B.C. needs its political leaders to put away their pettiness for awhile and attempt to actually work somewhat cooperatively in order to resolve some of the major issues we face in the very near future. That is what true leadership is supposed to be about.

•••

Speaking of silly comments and bad timing, the Donald has managed to blunder out yet another head-scratching tweet.

Following Wednesday’s tragic shooting at a Florida high school in which a former student shot 17 classmates and wounded 14 others Trump blurted, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behaviour. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem…”

Gee Donald, ya think? Murdering 17 school mates is probably a pretty good indication the kid had a few screws loose.

What the Donald did not mention is that his government recently created legislation making it easier for people “with issues” to obtain guns. Neither he nor his government has done anything to reduce the carnage caused by firearms in the United States, instead pandering to the red-neck, paranoid concept that the unrestricted right to bear arms somehow makes life safer in the U.S.

That thinking is a little disturbing and erratic.

No nation in the world has the number of shootings taking place in schools as the U.S. and I would suggest no nation in the world has the same percentage of deaths caused by guns as well.

Until Trump and other government leaders start to restrict gun ownership the tragic carnage will continue. Tweets or no tweets.

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