Critical opinions are part of the business and reality of politics and I am accustomed to that criticism. I have always been able to sleep soundly at night by the absolute unshakeable belief that what I am doing as an MLA and minister is in the best long-term interests of the majority of people, especially the people of the East Kootenay. You don’t have to agree with me, but I wouldn’t support it if I didn’t believe in it.
Of course, it matters what others think and I respect opposing opinions, but getting elected as a majority government gives us the right and the responsibility to take the positions we believe in. Furthermore, I did not get into politics to hide from the difficult issues, like the Agricultural Land Commission or Jumbo Glacier Resort. I will debate in public anyone who wants to have that debate about either issue. When the facts are laid on the table and the public are able to rationally assess why I have taken positions, I am comfortable that I will be judged fairly.
What frankly does trouble me is the reckless, irresponsible commentary like Ms. Trigg’s editorial. Putting me in the same category as Rob Ford and Alison Redford goes to my personal integrity, not my position on issues. In 13 years of vicious B.C. politics, I have never been accused of misusing public funds or inappropriate personal conduct, let alone criminal conduct.
I was recently elected with the third largest majority of all 85 BC Liberal candidates, for the fourth consecutive election, in a constituency that has a long history of electing NDP Members.
Ms.Trigg, as a professional journalist, should be embarrassed by her silly prediction of my imminent political demise. Since when does a newspaper editor mindlessly publish NDP rhetoric as her own opinion? On the Jumbo file, this editor should at least acknowledge that one of the two First Nations in the region, the Shuswap, actively support Jumbo Glacier Resort and that many local people support the project because of the jobs and opportunities a world class green resort would bring. Perhaps she should review the newspaper’s archives and read some of the supportive comments current Invermere mayor Gerry Taft made about the Jumbo Glacier Resort project before he had to worry about votes. She did not bother to interview me about the Agricultural Land Commission changes and is apparently completely unaware that ranchers in the region have been asking me for 13 years to make these changes. As fourth generation rancher Randy Reay said recently, “trying to score political points will not feed anyone.”
Joe Taylor, one of your longest serving farmers in the Columbia Valley contacted me to tell me that the narrow, unfair decisions of the Agricultural Land Commission made his life as a farmer almost unbearable during his 40-plus years on his Windermere land. Other East Kootenay ranchers like Jordy Thibeault, Barry Miner and Faye Street have recently said the majority of ranchers in the region support the changes, although a few vocal ones do not.
A good newspaper would investigate this issue by talking to all sides and sticking to the issues. It would not use the newspaper to attack my character. Disagree with me all you want but stooping to the kind of personal, vindictive and dishonest attack that soiled this newspaper is a reflection on the newspaper and the editor, not on me.
Kootenay East MLA
Associate editor Nicole Trigg responds:
In Minister Bill Bennett’s response to last week’s editorial, he interprets the concluding rhetorical question of “how many gaffes will it take before it’s bye bye Bennett” as a “silly prediction of (his) imminent political demise.”
Silly, yes, if the literary use of a rhetorical question was to summon a direct answer. It is a well-known fact Mr. Bennett heads up one of the strongest BC Liberal ridings in the province.
But a rhetorical question does not require a response. Instead, it encourages the reader to consider a viewpoint. In this case, the viewpoint encouraged was critical analysis of Mr. Bennett’s performance as one of B.C.’s most powerful politicians in light of several recent contentious issues affecting everyone, regardless of party affiliations — use of tax dollars, provincial revenue, hydro rates, and new legislation.
However, in misunderstanding the message, Mr. Bennett has provided a direct answer, in which he states:
• I am “putting him in the same category as Rob Ford and Allison Redford.” Another misunderstanding of literary technique; this time, use of a simile comparing sagging popularity levels of prominent Canadian politicians, not the reasons behind their respective downfalls. The editorial clearly lists the unique reasons, in my opinion, that pertain to Mr. Bennett.
• My commentary is “reckless and irresponsible” when, in fact, it was his own highly publicized remarks in legislature during ALR discussions — that he got a “kick” out of the 100 mile diet but if he stuck to it all that he would eat was hay — which inspired my critical commentary in the first place.
• The editorial was a “personal, dishonest and vindictive attack.” In a nutshell, my editorial assessment of a leading political figure’s public policies was not personal in the least and did not include abusive remarks to warrant this particular accusation.
Mr. Bennett represents a majority government that’s been accused of avoiding debate (the B.C. Legislature sat for just 36 days in 2013 and 19 days in the year leading up to the 2013 election; both MacLean’s and the Globe and Mail have printed critical commentaries on this topic), and by his own admission, the BC Liberals “could have done a better job of consultations” with respect to the ALR. Mr. Bennett added “I take my mea culpa” (which translates to “it’s my fault”). In this context, I thank Mr. Bennett for taking the time to correspond. This exchange of ideas is an amazing example of Canadian democracy and the free speech our veterans and soldiers fight for every day. What a waste if we don’t put it to good use.