Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Should she stay, or should she go...

Councillor Jennifer Rice probably hasn't been the subject of this much discussion since she arrived on the North Coast to begin her work on environmental causes, but with her successful bid for nomination with the NDP party on the North Coast, she suddenly finds that people are becoming a little more interested in her thoughts, her message and perhaps what impact she may or may not have on  and for, the riding she wishes to represent.

Of late, the main topic of conversation regarding the NDP nominee and current city councillor is her status as the latter, with a few concerns being raised over her continuing to sit on council with a provincial election campaign in the offing and in reality, already underway for all intents and purposes.

The topic of her double duties has been found on the pages of the local weekly newspaper the Northern View from time to time, with a few letters to the editor here  and here (page 7) , making it to the Wednesday delivery schedule.

The letter writers providing for the most part, some passionate thoughts that have played back and forth on each side of the she should stay; she should go debate.

However, all of those letters to the editor have been trumped by the paper's publisher, Todd Hamilton, who put forward a blistering editorial (to be published in print today, but posted to the website yesterday) that leaves nothing to the imagination as to his impressions of the NDP candidate and what she should do in the midst of this perceived tempest.

His editorial, one of a few that have raised a few eyebrows since his arrival, doesn't mince words and leaves the reader more than aware of where the Northern View's editorial position is at, in full dudgeon Hamilton calls for Ms. Rice to step aside.

We imagine some of his incendiary language regarding the would be MLA's environmental background will help to pull together the wide ranging interests of the NDP locally, who no doubt will rally to the cause of the suddenly beleaguered candidate for the North Coast.

We're also not sure that his declaration that Prince Rupert needs and wants LNG is quite correct, there is obviously a large portion of those hopeful for LNG development and most likely the majority of the community would surely welcome the prospect of better economic times that would come from it.

No one could argue the fact that the region needs more economic development and LNG appears to be a major part of the future for the Northwest, but like any issue there is obviously going to be more than one opinion to hear and consider.

We have a feeling there are more than a few residents in the Northwest, that fear for the nature of the development of natural gas and the transit of it from the north coast.

That too is a topic that is going to be the subject of much examination, perhaps as soon as this weekend at Nathan Cullen's open house forum on February 17th, set to tackle the topic of development

Councillor/Candidate Rice will obviously have to offer up her position to the local voters on such things as Natural Gas development and economic development for the riding, the Cullen open house does provide her with the first forum of note to perhaps put forward some of her thoughts on those themes of development.

We imagine more than a few local residents will be reading with interest the Northern View coverage and the feedback from the publisher, of that and any other forums of note that may follow.

As for the topic at hand, that of the employment status of the councillor.

While perhaps there is some validity in Mr. Hamilton's point, that someone who is involved in municipal politics should resign if they intend to seek higher office, the tone of his work may not have been the best method of approach.

The publisher doesn't seem to help his cause much with the full out attack attitude of his piece, an item that seemed to want to spread as much Spackle on the wall as possible, just to see what would stick.

A more measured examination of the topic and with a little less of the hubris provided, might have made the case that once the provincial campaign is officially underway, then Ms. Rice should step aside from her city council duties.

In the frame of a lengthy provincial campaign, the case could be be made that one can't be doing both jobs, especially when one task demands the majority of your time.

For the most part, the residents of the city probably deserve the full attention of those that they voted into municipal office, something that could not be delivered in a provincial election campaign.

It is a discussion that needs to take place however and to that end City Council had the topic on their agenda for Tuesday night's council session (item 6 C from the February 12 agenda), with City Staff providing the councillors with some reading material on the topic of the day (page 20 of package).

We're not sure if word of Mr. Hamilton's editorial was part of the package of information provided, but we'll hazard a guess it probably was a topic of conversation away from the microphones of city council chambers.

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