ROTHENBURGER – A topsy-turvy week of politics in B.C.

Kamloops Coun. Donovan Cavers and Acting Mayor Arjun Singh chat during this week’s UBCM convention in Vancouver. (Image: UBCM)

After-hours talk at UBCM convention was about the Kamloops by-election, and the BC Liberal leadership race

IT SHOULD COME as no surprise that, when politicians get together, they talk about politics.

They also talk about the weather, the spouse and kids, their golf games, and hockey, but politics is always at the top of the list.

So when 2,000 civic politicians met in Vancouver this past week, along with a couple of hundred provincial politicians, pretty much every possible nuance of politics and current political issues came up during workshops, policy sessions, luncheons, a big trade show, hallway chitchat, and the ubiquitous hosted receptions.

It was the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.

In my other role, as an electoral area director with the TNRD, I spent five days at this political gabfest and I’m going to now take the weekend off and not even think about politics, at least not until the results are in for the Kamloops civic by-election.

And let me say right here that the by-election came up a lot at UBCM. Not in an official way, of course, but whenever there was some free time available for anyone who lives within a hundred miles of Kamloops to get together.

The opening question was always, “So who do you think’s gonna win in Kamloops?” followed with, “How many people are running? A half dozen for mayor and a couple of dozen for council?”

The latter always with a sense of awe and confusion as to why so many are trying to get a one-year seat. And then, of course, there was speculation on the various possible answers for that.

I’ve been to about nine of these shindigs over the years, and they are the one political convention I’ve always believed to be worthwhile. This year’s had an interesting dynamic to it built around the fact the socialists are now in power provincially and the conservatives are out.

It’s a topsy-turvy world.

BC Liberals, who were only such a short time ago in charge, were almost as obvious in their presence as the NDP. Ex-cabinet ministers and other opposition MLAs were highly visible. Interim Opposition Leader Rich Coleman made a pretty good speech, the party invited delegates to a breakfast, and Libs held their own open sessions on current issues like wildfire recovery, in a sort of competition with panel discussions featuring the new cabinet ministers.

My impression, though, was that the new government did very well at this convention. Delegates frequently commended the various ministers for their accessibility and willingness to listen.

There are two parallel streams to UBCM, as with so many conventions — day-time learning and policy making, and the all-important after-hours “networking.” The latter is carried out in large part at the receptions I mentioned earlier.

Delegates hit, on average, three or four of them in an evening, ranging from those hosted by petroleum companies to the Chinese government and CUPE. (The B.C. government hosts one, as well, and is distinguished by the fact it includes a cash-only bar, and properly so. Can’t use taxpayers’ money to buy beer and wine, after all.)

What I’m leading up to is the other topic of intense interest: the BC Liberal leadership race. Due in part to the interesting juxtaposition at the convention of NDP government reps, the Greens, and the Liberals who might be back in power sometime soon, the leadership was a big off-hours topic.

The closer one gets to Kamloops, of course, the more support there is for Todd Stone. And there seems to be a feeling that former Surrey mayor and Tory MP Dianne Watts doesn’t have the cred within the party to carry it off.

Which leaves the likes of Mike de Jong, Sam Sullivan and Andrew Wilkinson. I was interested to read Keith Baldrey in a piece for Global News this week that Stone “needs work on his communication skills.”

I can’t imagine what Baldrey is talking about, as Stone is a consummate communicator and accomplished schmoozer. Baldrey does go on to say Stone has youth and “a reputation for thorough organizing,” plus an “impressive” backroom team going for him.

I tell you, though, five days of non-stop political talk is exhausting, even for a political junky. A short breather is in order until the first polling-station results start coming in tonight.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former school board chair, former editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and a current director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He was awarded the Jack Webster Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2011. His editorials are published regularly on CFJC Today and he appears Wednesdays on the CFJC-TV evening news with his Armchair Mayor commentary. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (6311 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.

7 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – A topsy-turvy week of politics in B.C.

  1. Cindy Ross Friedman // September 30, 2017 at 8:32 PM // Reply

    Agree with most of this as usual, aside from your comments about Mr. Stone’s communication skills. I grudgingly like the guy – the person – but not his hard right Conservative ideals. He very solidly believes business can solve all problems in BC and that homelessness through charity can be addressed. Well, I totally don’t buy it (hasn’t worked anywhere and the situation is continuously – and I do mean continuously –
    worsening. But he means well and is a good person. BUT NO – to hear him speak on the radio or in a speech is CRINGEWORTHY! He might be good one-on-one or with a small group, but he commands no presence. He mumbles, bumbles, and stumbled. He could not convince a fly to drink sugar water. He is coasting on the coattails of the eloquent Terry Lake and charismatic C. Clark. He needs lessons in elocution (huh – my spell checker is telling me that is not a word, but I would debate anyone who tells me it is not, and I would win, because I can use words correctly and maintain the thread of conversation, even if it goes on some tangent). So yeah, if Stone can pick up his rapport and throw on some improv humour, he could do it. I would not mind having a leader of any party living in my constituency! Ideology becomes secondary. Work as a team.

  2. Is all the schmooze worth the time and the expense?
    For example, Milobar must have gone to many of them and I am just wondering what did he brought back?

    • Cindy Ross Friedman // September 30, 2017 at 8:34 PM // Reply

      Good comment. Not sure why you dislike me so much, as I agree with most of what you say, but no worries – political jabs, I enjoy. Personal attacks and assessments on my ethical nature gets me up in arms (not referring to you).

      • I am not sure who told you I dislike you so much…because I don’t dislike you at all.

      • Mel Rothenburger // October 1, 2017 at 9:05 AM //

        Now that we’ve got that cleared up, I’m thinking it’s best if we avoid getting into who likes whom.

      • Cindy Ross Friedman // October 2, 2017 at 12:10 PM //

        Agree! Got back into grade one for a rare moment. I can sometimes be too ridiculously honest. And I really like Mel Rothenburger, too. Oops. Maybe that is something no one should ever say…

      • Mel Rothenburger // October 2, 2017 at 2:49 PM //

        I’m willing to make exceptions for people who say they like me.

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