EDITORIAL – Mayoral by-election looks like a zero-sum game so far

When does health care become a City council decision?

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

WHEN VOTERS elect a mayor, how much of what he or she says can they expect to come about? How valid, in other words, are their promises?

The number “zero” came to the fore last week in two different ways — one by design, one not — as the Kamloops mayoral election got underway. The two presumptive front runners, Bill McQuarrie and Ken Christian, each declared priorities.

For McQuarrie, it was a zero percent property tax increase in 2018. According to McQuarrie, City council needs to take a breath and think seriously about money. He says a zero-percent increase doesn’t have to mean a reduction in services, but rather some tough choices about where taxes are spent, regardless of inflation and other pressures that perennially have resulted in tax hikes in the two to 2.5 percent range.

McQuarrie’s comments were quickly greeted with a reminder from some quarters that mayors don’t make the final decision on City budgets — council as a whole does that.

This is very true. Candidates can only present their own positions on issues; they can’t guarantee them. What they do is to posit ideas, with a promise that they’ll work towards making them happen if elected.

So let’s just add a footnote to every election plank the candidates announce — a mayor can promise to lead council and the city in a certain direction, but he or she has to get others onside to do it.

Christian followed up McQuarrie’s opening salvo with a declaration that his priorities are the construction of the new Royal Inland Hospital patient care tower and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

These are major projects. It happens, though, that the mayor of Kamloops has pretty much zero say about them.

The local share of the patient care tower was approved by the Thompson Regional Hospital District — of which the mayor of Kamloops is a board member and has one vote out of more than two dozen — months ago. Health care, though, is by and large a provincial matter.

As for Trans Mountain, likewise the City and its mayor aren’t players in the eventual outcome. The decision is for the politicians in Ottawa and Victoria to make and — barring a successful challenge by the NDP government — it, too, is a done deal.

So, we have a promise from one candidate that can only come about if he has the leadership qualities to get at least four other council members on side, and a pair of priorities from another candidate that aren’t within City Hall’s jurisdiction.

Thus far, voters have no means of comparison between the two on issues specific to the City. Hopefully, that will change as the campaign matures. Otherwise, it could end up being a zero-sum game.

About Mel Rothenburger (6121 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.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – Mayoral by-election looks like a zero-sum game so far

  1. If Ken Christian can’t read the tea leaves well enough to recognize that the Kinder Morgan pipeline will very likely become a stranded asset within a decade or so, I have to question his ability to chart a reliable course forward for the city.

    ‘Vision’ is something that’s been missing from council for quite a few years…

  2. John Noakes // August 21, 2017 at 7:17 AM // Reply

    I’ll have to do some research to see if I can find anything on this topic, Mel, but I think that one of this year’s candidates for Mayor was pretty careful in earlier times to remain divorced from issues such as marijuana laws and stuff outside the jurisdiction of municipal government.
    If some of this stuff is simply a smoke screen or a diversion to take the voters’ attention away from actual past performance, I hope that something comes out before voting day that will separate charade from fact.
    Personally, I don’t want to keep with the “status quo”. As Bill rightly stated, the present policy of tax increases is not sustainable.
    Keep talking, Bill, and bring forward some concrete plan of action to bring others at the table on board with you. We’re listening.
    Which one or two of the councillor candidates do you think would be able to share your vision?
    Kevin can be kind of loud and bombastic but you know, maybe that’s what would bring fear into the hearts of the managers. How about a working guy who is honest and has a lot of integrity to round out the table at City Hall? Is there a guy who has worked with the public before, is good with people and has some integrity to carry him through?

  3. Pierre Filisetti // August 21, 2017 at 6:03 AM // Reply

    A zero percent property tax for one year is easily achievable…as an attentive and mildly competent individual I see many opportunities for monetary savings regarding civic matters.
    As for Mr. Christian campaign focus…on matters pretty much outside the powers of council, that goes to show how much the fellow really understands…

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