EDITORIAL – Constituency work a key part of being an MLA

There were too many empty chairs at forums. (Image: Armchair Mayor)

An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

A COUPLE of important points came out in one of the last all-candidates’ forums, specifically the one for Kamloops-North Thompson hopefuls held at the Brock Activity Centre.

One was obvious — in a room that holds about 150 people, 50 chairs were filled, including the candidates, volunteers and a few media.

Some of the forums drew bigger crowds than others of course, but there’s a general impression that the numbers have been down. The big media-sponsored forum at the TRU Grand Hall, for example, drew roughly half the usual number.

On the other hand, the turnout for advance voting has been good. Usually that’s a positive sign for turnout on voting day, but the comparative lack of interest at the forums is worrisome.

There are all kinds of ideas on how to improve turnout, but the very fact we have to wrack our brains for ways to entice voters to exercise their democratic privilege is troublesome.

Another excellent point that was made at the Brock forum was that when we go to vote, we should think not only about party policies but about the style the MLA will bring to constituency work.

The way in which MLAs respond to the concerns of constituents is as important as the work they do in Victoria when the Ledge is in session. If elected, will the candidate continue the outreach he or she cultivated during the campaign period?

Will he or she knock on doors between elections? Answer concerns promptly? Host public input sessions? Make sure constituents have an opportunity to meet with the MLA, not simply talk on the phone, or relay messages through staff? Demonstrate patience with constituents who disagree with the MLA on solutions?

Those kinds of questions are tougher to answer than policy planks, especially when a candidate is lesser known before the election. Previous community work is a good indication, though. Involvement in community groups reflects not only commitment but the areas of specific interest to the candidate.

These are things to carefully consider. When we go into the voting booth, it’s not just about a specific axe we may have to grind, or about a single policy — it’s about choosing someone who is well-rounded, who is sincere, and who will represent the riding well.

About Mel Rothenburger (9230 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

5 Comments on EDITORIAL – Constituency work a key part of being an MLA

  1. Milobar has not been accessible or approachable as Mayor, why would anybody think that will change if he is elected MLA?

  2. I don’t attend forums since the same 3 questions seem to be brought up at all of them… And the answers to those questions are easily accessed by turning on my radio or opening the paper. I didn’t need to know how the candidates felt about Doctors or Ajax, which is all the people in this community seem to ask questions about. It gives them a chance to ask a loaded question full of opinion, and they just want to be heard.

    I am concerned that the North Thompson MLA will actually represent this community and be accessible, since no matter who win, they won’t live here, and of 4 candidates, only one seemed to canvas my neighbourhood. I think it will be liberal by a landslide based on our demographics and the apathetic local campaign by our NDP hopeful. Sigh…

  3. Lawrence Beaton // May 8, 2017 at 7:38 AM // Reply

    Good person to note, as to how they act in between elections (though on a municipal level) is Mr. Arjun Singh. He does knock on doors, he does have constant contact with residents of Kamloops, if they so desire it. I find that my MLA is “well-rounded”, does remember names of voters, and does occasionally contact the residents of his riding. Finally, when he does speak to his voters, he has direct eye contact with whomever he is speaking with, as in he is focusing in on the person. But what I do get annoyed with are the power-brokers or the wanna-be power-brokers who surround the candidate, to the exclusion of all others. But not to worry, I have been involved in elections in Eastern Canada, the Prairie Provinces and now BC for a number of years, the problem is present is everywhere in this country. In a way, it is sort of like, all these great boxers, who are surrounded by an entourage of power-brokers, who have donated to the boxer’s career either financially or otherwise.

    • As for the “local” representative is all about perception, nothing else.
      If the light bulb goes out he would have a tough time deciding whether to replace it…and that is an absolute truth!
      As for the MLA, it is usually the office staff looking at “you in the eye”…

  4. Dan Hines would be the obvious choice on the North Shore then, wouldn’t he?

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