It happened when I was covering Parliament Hill in Ottawa … and Toronto Bay Street lawyer John Turner was in the Capital to announce his candidacy to become federal Liberal Leader.
At a packed afternoon gathering of Liberal stalwarts, movers and shakers … elected, appointed, fundraisers, party supporters … and central Canada (ie Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto) media, Turner vowed if he became Leader, he’d form a truly NATIONAL government … even bringing the WEST back into the Liberal fold.
In fact, although he had mostly lived and been educated back East (Turner had been for years a Montreal and Toronto lawyer and both a Montreal and then Ottawa MP) Turner said HE would seek HIS Parliamentary seat in Vancouver to emphasize his determination to improve the sorry Liberal standings in BC.
At least John Turner had SOME BC connections: he had lived as a child in Rossland, BC; his father later became Lieutenant Governor of the Province; and, Turner had attended UBC.
But let’s keep it real: in both his legal career and political life, Turner had been more a part of the Central Canada establishment …. so I challenged him on his new-found Western dedication.
With his background, I asked, why should British Columbians believer HE would be any different than previous Liberal Leaders … making all kinds of promises to the West BEFORE the election, but then catering overwhelmingly to Quebec and Ontario afterwards … and giving the West short shrift????
All heads turned … and there was an audible moan in the room.
Turner vowed He’d be different … and said his commitment to seek a BC seat was genuine. Which he later did … representing Vancouver Quadra as MP from 1984-93.
And when he did make it to the PM job, Turner DID try to involve and boost and BC’s profile and interests back East … but Central Canadian Chretien Liberals (who he had defeated) were determined to get rid of him and he was out as PM within six months!
But at his re-entry into politics announcement, the room was clearly shocked at such impertinence from a BC reporter who almost none of them had ever heard of or knew even existed in Ottawa! LOL!
CTV reporter Jim Munson (now Liberal Senator) was so incensed at my question for some reason, back at the CTV offices (where the BCTV bureau was located, because we were part owners of the CTV network) he shouted at me: “What a question! That’s why you’ll never work for the national network!!”
“Good”, I shouted back. “I couldn’t take the pay cut!”
Munson was infuriated. But fortunately, BC viewers and my newsroom cohorts back home LOVED the question.
Decades later, my concern remains the same … this time with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh … as it was with Turner.
I believe Singh is seeking what he hopes will be a safe seat as an MP so he can get back to what he really wants: being the Leader of the NDP, headquartered in Ottawa, working hard to cater to Ontario, with its 121 seats, and Quebec, with its 78.
Burnaby South deserves better than an MP whose real interest lies 2,000 miles East. .
The voters should have an MP who will fight for THEIR interests, THEIR needs, THEIR priorities, and, THEIR positions on national issue as BRITISH COLUMBIANS….and SPEAK OUT LOUDLY for them, even when their interests run counter to those of other provinces.
I don’t believe they would get that with Singh.
Burnaby South voters will just be background extras in a larger Singh performance aimed at wooing and catering to Central Canadian voters (Ontario and Quebec).
At the expense of Burnaby South and British Columbia… because I predict Singh would NEVER stand up for them AGAINST the interests (federal jobs, contracts, spending … and, most of all, powerful political positions and Supreme Court appointments ) of Ontario and Quebec in his bid to win votes in the seat-rich East.
And let’s keep it real: unlike Turner, he will NOT become PM anyway … so a vote for Singh is a wasted vote.
If voters there really care about jobs in their riding, or in the Vancouver, Lower Mainland and BC economies … federally right now only the Liberals or Conservatives have a realistic chance of delivering for Burnaby South.
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