FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – With exactly one month to go until the election in British Columbia and the Peace River North riding currently holding three Independent’s, one outgoing Independent is clearing the air despite what the public may think about not being in a political party.
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington has accomplished lots during her two terms in the legislature but she also has created a path for future Independent MLA’s, like her, to be recognized, heard and respected.
While she isn’t seeking re-election in the upcoming provincial election on May 9, she debunked a lot of myths of beliefs people may have when it comes to electing Independent candidates when she visited Fort St. John last Wednesday at a public event put on by Peace River North Independent candidate Bob Fedderly.
Huntington served two terms in the B.C. Legislature and was the first independent MLA in the province’s history to be re-elected to a second term.
Her first term was in 2009 and she initially hadn’t won the votes. Huntington was running against Wally Oppal and the first count showed that she lost by 2 votes. Then, there was a recount on on May 26, 2009 and those results showed something different. Huntington had actually won by 32 votes.
“It is interesting being introduced as an Independent. I know that people wanted me to talk about ‘what can an Independent do?’. It is always the first question.”
Huntington says she always heard the phrase of ‘you won’t be able to do anything’ or ‘your office is going to be in the basement of parliament’.
“I have to say that every single element of those accusations was wrong then and it’s wrong today.”
Huntington’s office was certainly not in the basement of the legislature, it was actually on the rotunda.
“The speaker took me down to my offices personally and I could not believe, because I had been told I would be in the basement and in the corner but I was given the most gorgeous office on the rotunda.”
They even moved the nurses offices so that Huntington’s staff would be located directly next to her. They also moved the public education and outreach offices and ironically, put them in the basement.
Huntington was also given one question per week, something other MLA’s didn’t have the luxury of.
“My access to the house, my access to question period was extraordinary. So it is not true and I don’t know why the rumour is put out there that an Independent has the same rights and privileges as every other member of the house.”
She also pointed to another instance where she wanted her staff to attend a Budget Lockup after being invited. But upon arrival, her staff were told that they were not allowed in.
“They came back and I said ‘Okay, well how did you enjoy it?’ and they told me ‘we weren’t allowed into it’.”
Huntington said instead, her staff were given a cell phone and put in another room which was empty and filled with boxes and one desk. She said they were told ‘call us if you have any questions’.
“I was so angry and I phoned the Finance Minister’s office and he eventually called me back and I said ‘this simply just won’t do. This is unacceptable and it is disrespectful and you can’t behave in this manner.’ “
Huntington speaking up when she did actually proved effective. The rule was changed and they negotiated how MLA’s can go into the Budget Lockup.
After the event with Fedderly, Huntington took time to address comments that were made stating ‘voting for an Independent is like throwing your vote in the trash can’.
“I read that and I responded to it on my Facebook page with a letter. That was one of the most disrespectful comments I’ve ever heard about a voter and ‘the vote’. No vote is sent to a garbage can. That vote represents how a individual believes and feels the process should be running and to say something like that is so typical of this government and this member. He also said an Independent can’t do anything but he didn’t try to do anything. He has been an Independent twice because he had to be, he was no longer in his caucus and neither time did he speak, did he ask a question or do any Independent research. He has absolutely no idea the accomplishments I’ve had as an Independent.”
While crunch time is approaching the election and candidates are kicking campaigns into high gear, Huntington says that these promises should have been acted on a while ago.
“If a project or a donation to a cause is good, it should have happened when they needed it and not in an attempt to buy a vote. Right now, right across this province, it is disgusting what is going on. Money is pouring out of the government and commitments are pouring out of the government. Money is being poured out that should have been given to a lot of these organizations, issues and infrastructure projects long ago when they were first being approved.”
Bob Fedderly is joined by fellow Independent candidates Jeff Richert and Rob Fraser. BC Liberal candidate Dan Davies and BC NDP candidate Rob Dempsey are also in the running.
If you would like to learn more about the candidates, be sure to mark your calendar April 27. All candidates will be on hand for a meet and greet before a scheduled debate that evening. The night starts at 6:30 p.m.