Another View: Report card time for local politicians

Tom Fletcher is a columnist and legislative reporter for Black Press

B.C. Views

 

This November, voters will be hiring local politicians for a four-year term, rather than three.

It’s a good time to ask some tough questions about the performance of councils on the job they are assigned to do, as opposed to posturing about senior government matters.

Remember when it was fashionable for city councils to declare their communities “a nuclear weapons-free zone”? You can still see the signs entering Vancouver and Nanaimo. Alert voters may wonder: “Did they really think we’re that stupid?” Yes, they did. And some of them still do.

To illustrate, allow me to introduce my poster child for bad local government, Victoria city councillor Ben Isitt.

A long-time NDP activist, Isitt got elected three years ago after raising his name recognition with a couple of runs for mayor. His rookie term has been notable for a series of stunts that extend his career as a professional student, campus radical and occasional history lecturer.

One of Isitt’s big studies is the influence of Soviet communism on the B.C. NDP. He was on one of his visits to Russia earlier this year when President Vladimir Putin was having his way with Crimea.

Isitt’s fondness for state control was on display last fall when aboriginal protesters disrupted natural gas drilling in New Brunswick, torching several police vehicles in the process.

Isitt took to his Facebook page to decry the federal government’s use of police against the population, and suggested Canada should emulate Venezuela, where petroleum resources benefit the people rather than corporations.

Venezuela sells gasoline for nine cents a gallon, the late Hugo Chavez’s gift to his people after nationalizing the oil industry. The capital, Caracas, is famous for extreme poverty, brutally suppressed riots, and a crime rate so bad it ranks among the world’s most dangerous cities.

How does Isitt’s political outlook translate to his role in local government?

This week local politicians gather in Whistler for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. One of Isitt’s first contributions a couple of years ago was at a UBCM workshop on how to finance local infrastructure.

Isitt proposed setting up a municipal income tax. Presumably this would be on top of property taxes.

In its wisdom, Victoria council appointed Isitt as their Capital Regional District representative. In that capacity he led the charge against Canada Post’s decision to wind up door-to-door delivery for the minority of people who aren’t already using community mailboxes.

After instructing Ottawa to accelerate the bankruptcy of this Crown corporation, Isitt began ordering the province to intervene in a dispute over Grace Islet, a rocky point off Salt Spring Island where an Alberta man is trying to build a retirement home. The dispute centres on aboriginal burial grounds and artifacts, and Isitt appointed himself advocate for the grievances of native people.

When the B.C. government didn’t follow his instructions, he demanded that the CRD expropriate the land and evict the owner. Island politics being what it is, this was actually considered before cooler heads prevailed.

And how are things with the CRD’s real job while the Isitt circus rolls on? The most over-governed region in B.C. remains locked in a bitter turf war over a federally mandated sewage treatment project, and is on the verge of forfeiting hundreds of millions in provincial funds.

So voters should ask themselves a couple of questions this November. Is your council doing the job it was hired to do? And do you trust these individuals with your wallet until the fall of 2018?

 

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sean Hart, 34, unexpectedly left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich on Nov. 6, 2020 and has now been missing for six months. (Photo courtesy Penny Hart)
Search continues for Saanich man Sean Hart six months after his disappearance

Support from community, police keeps his mother hopeful

Police stopped, then let go this man and his large collection of cans during a stop Monday morning on Resthaven Drive. Police had received a report of a possible theft, but let him go after he had returned the property, which he believed was his to take after being left out in public. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Report of theft, balancing act on Sidney street draws curious onlookers

Incident happened just before 8:30 a.m. opposite of Vancouver Island Regional Library branch

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

Daniel Foster, last seen in downtown Parksville on Saturday, May 1. (submitted photo)
RCMP seek help locating missing Victoria man, last spotted in Parksville

Daniel Foster, 43, seen via surveillance camera using an ATM

Victoria Police Department looks to identify a person of interest after a Friday night stabbing. (VicPD handout)
Police seek person of interest after Victoria stabbing

Friday night assault leaves one with potentially life-altering injuries

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Most Read