I have spent my life in the political wilderness. Literally. I lived in Northwestern Ontario (with a short time out for university in the south) until a move to the East Kootenay and Kimberley. These two regions have much in common. There is a wealth of beautiful landscape in both, though I will argue the mountains and clear blue skies of the East Kootenay are superior to the blue lakes, rocky shores and bugs — yikes! — of northern Ontario. They also have smaller populations, and most importantly in the political sense, a great distance from the seat of power.
In Ontario, it’s Toronto. Though we are genetically imprinted with a dislike for the big TO in our very being, that’s where the power is. That’s where the movers and shakers are. Torontonians, who spend much of their time gazing into their own navels and contemplating their rating on the scale of “important cities”, are constantly striving to convince the rest of us of their greatness. Toronto doesn’t want to support a lowly CFL team, they dream of the big time — the NFL. They have an NBA team and I honestly thought the Toronto-centric TSN sportscasters were going expire from sheer delight when the Raptors made a tiny run the spring. The Leafs … well, the less said the better about the Leafs.
My point is the further you are from the centre of the universe, the more likely you are to be thought somewhat less intelligent, a rube from the bush. You know nothing, you have nothing to add to the conversation. Although at the time of my northern Ontario residency, I would say I knew enough not to live in Toronto.
And now I reside in the East Kootenay. It is a little closer to Vancouver/Victoria in driving time, but still very distant. The Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island are where the population is, and where the powerful elite gather to make decisions. Decisions that greatly affect those of us in the hinterland.
Sidebar: I will accept the term hinterland. I will not accept the term heartland, coined during the Gordon Campbell years. Heartland implies an area populated by people idiotic enough to be flattered by such a condescending term. There is a certain paternalistic flavour to heartland. “Don’t you worry, Heartlander. We know what we’re doing with the ALR. Don’t you worry your little rural head about it. Now, run along. Don’t you have a barn to raise or some creature to shoot?”
My point in all this rambling is this. We are not innocent, naïve rubes from the bush. We can discuss world politics and foreign affairs. We are as concerned about the environment as city-dwellers, perhaps more so as we live more intimately with it. We have no problem explaining our feelings or worries about legislation which affects us.
What we have is a problem being heard. We don’t have the numbers to make much of a fuss. And we are dismissed. Time after time. Remember years ago when the government closed Kimberley’s hospital without so much as a consultation? We were outraged. We rallied. A petition with more than 4,000 signatures was presented — which had to be almost every person of voting age in the city and immediate surroundings. Surely they will listen, we said.
They didn’t. We were dismissed.
Dismissed again on Jumbo. Dismissed on the ALR.
You can kick and scream all you want but you are just a mouse trying desperately to gain the attention of a gorilla. You just can’t yell loud enough.
Carolyn Grant is the Editor of the Kimberley Daily Bulletin