Editorial: Canadians’ political appetite could change in 2015

Kootenay-Columbia Member of Parliament has been doing a great job as a Conservative politician representing this remote, rural riding

No doubt about it. Kootenay-Columbia Member of Parliament has been doing a great job as a Conservative politician representing this remote, rural riding. His fellow Conservatives certainly think so, having nominated him to stand as the Conservative Party candidate in the next federal election. He was the only one to apply for the position. Having won in 2011 with 55.88 per cent of the vote, earning almost 10,000 more votes than NDP runner-up Mark Shmigelsky,Wilks’ willingness to run again was probably a welcome relief to his party, given the riding’s election boundaries have since been expanded to include Nelson, Kaslo and Salmo, which are traditional NDP strongholds previously part of the Southern Interior federal electoral district, which was won, in 2011, by NDP MP Alex Atamanenko by 5,900 votes over his Conservative rival Stephen Hill, giving him 50.9 per cent of the vote. A victory almost as strong as that of Wilks’. But after three terms in office, Atamanenko has announced that he will not be running for re-election. And prior to his first term, the Southern Interior was a Conservative riding. So it’s unlikely the NDP will unsurp Wilks’ seat, despite the new dynamic. While a lot of money has flowed into the Kootenay-Columbia under Wilks’ leadership, it’s something of a dual-edged sword. In part, Wilks’ vocal advocacy for the region has earned it, but on the other hand, it’s a reward for being a good party member who toes the line and doesn’t question party politics, upholding Conservative policies despite any dissent from the population he was elected to serve. Case in point: changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers program that have disqualified the Columbia Valley from participating. Rather than representing his riding’s concerns to the powers that be, Wilks has represented the powers that be to his riding. While this translates into community grants and infrastructure for the valley and beyond, it’s not exactly how democracy was intended to work.  On one hand, it’s refreshing to have political representation in a majority government, unlike NDP MLA Norm Macdonald whose hands are tied. But this type of governance works only as long as the public is willing to digest the prime minister’s top-down leadership style. And with a Conservative minority predicted for the next election, the political appetite in Canada could foreseeably change.

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