Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald gave a group of Golden citizens some insight into provincial politics at the final session of the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce sponsored “Let’s Do Breakfast” series.
“The goal here is to try to give you a better understanding of what the job at the provincial level is like, and what are the ways that we try to take forward the issues that people have in the region, and take forward those issues effectively,” said Macdonald.
The former teacher went on to explain how his position, as an opposition member in the Legislative Assembly, presents a different dynamic than that of a government member.
“There’s a surprising amount of personal interaction that comes into it,” he said. “Even though you’re working within a process that’s set out, personal interactions and personal relationships play a role in it.”
Macdonald brings a diverse background to the position, including teaching in Manitoba, Golden, and six years in Africa, as well as terms served on Town Council and as Mayor. These experiences taught him the importance of listening, and being willing to adjust the way you think.
“You come to the job with a certain mindset, and then in the job you are given resources to organize yourself, so you have to think through how you are going to effectively represent people.”
Communication with the large geographic area was one strength he felt he went in with. And that allowed for valuable feedback.
“Local government is much more direct. You can decide something, and often hear about it the next day at the grocery store. But provincially and federally it is a little more complex, but you still need to hear back so that you know that you’re on the right track.”
There are, admittedly, situations when the system breaks down. And as an opposition member, Macdonald is faced with the task of putting pressure on the government to do the right thing, which often creates a confrontational setting.
“What people see often is the adversarial nature of provincial politics. It is adversarial, just like a court of law where two lawyers are pushing for two different perspectives. The hope is that the judge will get at the truth from that dynamic. It is the same in the legislature.
“I’ve had exchanges with George Abbott in the house, and 15 minutes later we’re sitting down trying to solve an issue. So that’s part of the dynamic to.”
There are acceptable rules of conduct, and a general understanding of how it’s going to work said Macdonald. Provincial politics is hugely interesting because they touch on so many areas of life including healthcare, education, it’s level of government that can take kids away from families. There are so many elemental issues
“These are things you have to get right,” he said.
Economic growth and regional services is of great concern for the Columbia River-Revelstoke region. There are businesses closing, and services are being centralized away from Golden. Macdonald spoke to some of these issues during the breakfast.
“Basically what this government (the Provincial Liberals) has done to cut costs, is concentrate services and attention to regional centres,” said Macdonald. He also mentioned that the current government does not have a rural development plan in place. This does not, however, mean that people in Golden should not feel optimistic.
“The highway projects have been very good for us. If we did not have those we would be in serious trouble. We’ve also been lucky with forestry in the sense that LP is continuing to operate,” he said.
Macdonald says that the Liberal policy of cutting taxes has taken away the room fiscally to do any economic development in rural areas.
“That has worked for them, they’ve been re-elected… but they don’t have any rural development strategy that they can articulate, and it will be a challenge for any government moving forward to try to rebuild.”