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REPORTING · 14th June 2010
Merv Ritchie
The leader of the Provincial Opposition Party, the NDP, came to Terrace last weekend and told us she didn’t believe in a secret ballot in the legislature. This didn’t come as much of a surprise but the question needed to be asked.

“Don’t you think there should be a secret ballot held on all votes in all the legislative houses?” we asked Carol James.

She stated no, because the general public would want to know how their representative voted, was her reply. Our immediate, almost interrupting response was, we know exactly how our MLA will vote now, referring to Robin Austin, exactly as he is told to by you.

This exchange was started due to the HST being enforced on the Province by the current Provincial Government led by Gordon Campbell and his Liberal party. We suggested that if there was a secret ballot Campbell would have to consider all the opinions and this couldn’t be pushed through. James agreed and attempted to isolate the HST as a unique issue that required a different procedure. We countered by referring to the sale of BC Rail, BC Ferries and BC Hydro, all done by forceful “Party whipped” voting in the Provincial Legislature. All of these could be different with a secret ballot.

James’s predecessor, Joy MacPhail, stated exactly the same thing when she visited Terrace, lending support to the NDP troops during the previous election. She referred to the British Parliamentary Democracy, which depended on this system of publicly exposing the vote of the member we elect, to their Party leader.

The visit to Terrace followed on the heels of James visit and participation in the Prince Rupert Sea Fest Parade. She talked about it being the first time she had to put her clothes in a dryer after a parade.

Anywhere between 24 and 30 people wandered in and out of the Cafenara Cafe’ to visit with Ms. James. Some Terrace stalwarts were present such as Bill McRae and Les Watmough. The more socially conscious crowd seemed to stick around and listen to the conversations and ask questions. There came a point when James decided to address the room as a whole. She apologized to the Cafenera customers who were there for a good cuppa joe or a sandwich and just happened upon a political gathering.

When she spoke she addressed the usual subjects, the lack of funding for a variety of issues such as education and healthcare. She spoke about a plan and a vision for a better British Columbia, one with responsible effective government, one that wasn’t serving special corporate interest groups.

In the end we were left with the feeling that it was just another political speech, canned and often repeated.

The only really off the cuff and heart felt comments were when she spoke about our sitting MLA Robin Austin. James seemed to get a spark in her eyes. Her tone of voice changed to a tone of honesty and unrehearsed truth. It was light and bubbly and filled with laughter when she spoke about how passionate Austin was about the Skeena and the communities he serves. She described how he was almost incessantly forceful when he was addressing the concerns, the needs and the achievements in this corner of British Columbia.

James told us, after her address to the crowd, how the current government does not use the multi party committees to discuss and engage in debates on important issues. She spoke about the numerous requests made by the NDP to have these committees debate but the Liberals have always spurned the requests. James felt that it is these types of committees that make the democracy, we currently use, work. When the government of the day actively engages the opinions and thoughts of the other parties, effective and productive legislation comes forward. She also stated that these simply never happen with the Campbell Government.

When pressed on the secret ballot issue, after this lengthy discussion and our currently ineffective democracy, James finally acknowledged, “I’ll have to reconsider this,” referring to the need for a secret ballot in the legislature so members can vote without repercussion.
A one on one with a Terrace resident.  This was a unique opportunity for people to be upfront and direct with a political leader.
A one on one with a Terrace resident. This was a unique opportunity for people to be upfront and direct with a political leader.
Les Watmough and Ms. James.  She took the time to say hi even though Austin was heading out the door to meet with City Council.  James' assistant Neera Ritcey looks on.
Les Watmough and Ms. James. She took the time to say hi even though Austin was heading out the door to meet with City Council. James' assistant Neera Ritcey looks on.
Speaking to the crowd  of twenty or so gathered at the Cafenara in Terrace.
Speaking to the crowd of twenty or so gathered at the Cafenara in Terrace.