EDITORIAL – On Cavers: freedom of speech doesn’t mean you have to use it

Coun. Donovan Cavers.

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

NOW THAT we’ve had a couple of days to be indignant about Coun. Donovan Cavers’ latest faux pas, let’s try to figure out what it is, exactly, we’re indignant about.

On Wednesday, Cavers tweeted a dare to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to “go for it” on cancelling equalization payments (often referred to as transfer payments) to B.C. if this province doesn’t smarten up and toe the line over the Trans Mountain pipeline.

In the same tweet, Cavers published a map of Cascadia and said it was “looking pretty fit these days,” then wrapped up his rather scattered bit of messaging with “:)@JustinTrudeau Pull. Your. Head. Out. Of. Your. Montreal.”

Sort of makes you wish Twitter would go back to 140 letters.

Anyway, the response has been less than positive. Everyone from Lianne Milobar (wife of MLA Peter Milobar), Lisa Lake (wife of former MLA Terry Lake), Lake himself, KCBIA president Mike O’Reilly to a whole lot of just-regular folks weighed in.

The opinions mostly ranged between describing his tweet as “disgraceful” and suggesting Cavers is unfit for office and should resign.

This isn’t the first time Cavers has been in hot water for the way he expresses himself — the infamous middle-finger salute to Ajax being the most vivid.

This latest episode is silly, maybe even childish, and certainly politically foolish.

It’s much less offensive than the comments one can find on social media any day of the week, whether about the prime minister or innocent bystanders. It is not, however, a good idea for a member of local government to tell the prime minister of the country to get his head out of his arse. Or his Montreal. Leave that to the Internet trolls. It behooves City councillors to show respect for the office.

And while Cavers has every right to have strong disagreements with provincial and federal governments on issues like pipelines, he might consider being less confrontational in the way he does it.

There’s enough disrespect being thrown around between B.C. and Alberta, and Ottawa, as it is right now.

As for Cascadia, it’s a nutty idea that’s been floating around for years and will never get anywhere, but if Cavers likes it, that’s his right.

Where Cavers goes wrong is forgetting that when elected representatives speak, people listen. Even if what they’re talking about has nothing to do with their own particular elected office, the public judges such opinions as part of the whole.

Cavers can’t keep saying stuff that gets people upset and then saying afterward he was just kidding. He’s at his best when he stands up for the people who elected him on civic issues, and that’s what he should stick to doing.

None of what Cavers tweeted has any consequence except for what his detractors think of him. I’m pretty sure it didn’t wreck Bill Morneau’s or Justin Trudeau’s day, and B.C. is no more likely to leave confederation today than it was on Wednesday.

Which begs the question, what did Cavers hope to achieve? If he wanted to prove he has a right to free speech, he accomplished that, but nothing else. Having a right to say something doesn’t mean you should always say it.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on and CFJC Today. Contact him at

About Mel Rothenburger (6550 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 EDITORIAL – On Cavers: freedom of speech doesn’t mean you have to use it

  1. David Briggs // April 14, 2018 at 1:37 AM // Reply

    As a “have” province, B.C. taxpayers pay far more into Ottawa’s coffers in equalization payments than we get back in services. The very idea that the Federal Liberals would threaten to keep taking our money, but cut us off from the benefits WE PAY FOR is outrageous. There’s nothing wrong with what Cavers said. Lying down and taking abuse is nothing to be proud of. Almost sounds like you are endorsing such theft.

  2. R A George // April 13, 2018 at 8:25 AM // Reply

    I,m with Sandra Burkholder. I have not always agreed with Jonathon,s opinions but I do on this one. Cascadia is a good idea but only by half.Getting rid of the 49th parallel would simplify it.Sure,American politics are surely not perfect,but it would rid us of Trudeau junior,the son of him who had no respect for ” the people” and who also had no problem using his middle finger.
    Anyway,this stuff can be cussed and discussed till the cows come home.I,m glad Terry Lake is out of it along with Senator Claghorn ( KK). Now we have he who fell off his diet and the guy with the crew cut still, so wadaya gonna do. Very frustrating to be sure.
    Hang in there Jonathon.Call your spade a spade and don,t let em wear you down.

  3. Jesse Ritcey // April 13, 2018 at 8:18 AM // Reply

    Hmm Mel, you sit on the TNRD board (an elected position) and are in the habit of opining on everything under the sun.

    Some people enjoy your opinions, others love to hate them.

    Why would you deny Donovan the same right ? Its only freedom of speech if you can actually use it.

    Whatever happened to having a conversation ? Its healthy and OK to have divergent opinions in society, even loud disagreements. Its dissapointing to see so many people telling him to clam up and saying he should resign/be fired (only the voters can do that – and he keeps on winning, so obviously someone appreciates what he has to say).

  4. Brian Young // April 13, 2018 at 7:42 AM // Reply

    Have you learned nothing from the US crap with Trump?

  5. Brian Young // April 13, 2018 at 7:40 AM // Reply

    It’s obvious to me that he has a very myopic and inflated sense of his own importance! The man seems so undeserving of any kind of position that when he speaks (and only because of his status as a city voice) his words count.

  6. I think a mole hill suddenly become a mountain. We are faced with serious environmental and social problems in this province and in this city and none because of Donovan Cavers’ tweets or otherwise related to his perceived behavior. Find a just cause to be indignant Mr. Rothenburger!

  7. Sandra Burkholder // April 13, 2018 at 6:56 AM // Reply

    Why can’t he say it? I’m so tired of extreme political correctness for it’s own sake. We NEED politicians to say what they mean. If other politicians can let his stupid show then at least let our educated, caring and passionate politicians say what they mean. The fact that the old guard wades in with “disgraceful” just proves my point. They’ve played it safe for years and all we know of them is that they will follow party lines, often breaking promises, without us knowing what they really think. Give me passion and genuine reactions any day as long as they do not harm others. The Kinder Morgan issue is one that has real consequences and if we (and our politicians) can’t be “confrontational” in our comments -and apparently it’s ok for the Alberta premier, then we are assuming that our passions about an issue of this magnitude can be decided by afternoon meetings around the board room table alone. And the “go ahead and shove your transfer payments” comment? Does anyone think that a good part of the BC electorate hasn’t thought the same thing in the last few days? Bullying by holding money over somebody’s head just makes them want to figure out a way not to be beholden. In any other business that might be threatened by the withholding of cash, this response would be appropriate if one was to survive fiscally. Finally, I don’t think Cavers is forgetting that people listen…he keeps getting elected because they do. To tell him he should stick to civic issues is to tell all people that they should not have something to contribute beyond the small world of what they do for a paycheque. I’ve watched Donovan as a politician for many years…I only wish there were more young people like he was once, coming along to shake up our preconceived notion of what it is to be a defender of the environment and to show us that it is right and appropriate to be angry and frustrated if we are in political office. After all he keeps getting elected by those who feel the same way. That says it all.

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