Farewell Russ Hiebert; wish I could say it was nice knowing you. A decade of "public service" sounds impressive on paper, until you view the impact his work had on the community he served. The list of Hiebert’s accomplishments reads as follows:
That about covers it.
Actually, that’s not fair.
In 10 years (and counting) of service as the elected Member of Parliament for South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, Hiebert established himself as the poster boy of everything that’s wrong with our electoral system as it exists today. Rather than represent the people in his riding, Hiebert represented Ottawa to his riding.
Hiebert parachuted in from Manitoba and stacked a meeting to nab the Conservative nomination away from an actual hard working MP, Val Meredith.
Once elected, he was the beneficiary of a new Conservative Party rule that guaranteed the renomination of sitting MPs. In one of the Conservative Party’s safest seats in British Columbia, it would take a massive screw up on Hiebert’s part to lose the seat. He solved that problem by not doing anything of note and avoiding contact with the media whenever possible.
But even by doing nothing, Hiebert managed to find his share of trouble. He liked to sign his name to the giant presentation cheques handed out in the community, giving the appearance of personal largesse on his part when in fact it was government money being distributed.
He bombarded residents in his riding with inane mailouts filled with information that insulted the intelligence of anyone foolish enough to attempt to read them. (Sample question: Who do you think is tougher on crime: a – Stephen Harper; b – Michael Ignatieff; or c – Jack Layton? As if residents were actually expected to fill out such vapid queries attached to boilerplate Conservative propaganda.)
In a Conservative caucus so utterly devoid of talent that Prime Minister Harper repeatedly opts to recycle his cabinet ministers rather than take a flyer on someone from among the bobbleheaded masses on the backbenches, Hiebert didn’t stand out from the crowd. He never got the call to join the PM’s inner circle despite holding one of the safest Conservative seats in the West. He was a bobblehead to the end.
Sorry, once again not true.
The high point of Hiebert’s career as an MP came in 2010 when it was revealed he was the biggestspending MP in all of B.C. for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Not only that, Hiebert’s expenses totalled $637,093 – the second highest of all MPs in the country. (The average was roughly $200,000.) And what was all that money spent on? The glossy boilerplate mailouts were part of it, but those costs were overshadowed by Hiebert’s penchant for purchasing first-class plane tickets for himself and his family whenever they travelled to and from Ottawa.
When he finally mustered a response to the public’s outrage, Hiebert smugly stated that his expenses were "the price of democracy."
So now, after four terms in office and a fat pension package in his back pocket, Hiebert has announced he is stepping down. In keeping with his tradition of open communications with the community, he did not return phone calls from the Now to comment on his decision.
MONORAIL? HAS IT REALLY COME TO THIS?
Monorail in North Surrey? Surrey residents are so egregiously served by public transit that city officials are willing to listen to any proposal that crosses their desks. Last week, Surrey transportation committee heard a presentation from a company that wants to build a monorail along 104th Avenue linking Whalley with Guildford.
So it’s come to this has it? Crappy bus service, rising bridge tolls and extremely limited SkyTrain access for Surrey commuters has pushed us to the point where we seriously consider fairground rides as a solution to the problem.
Why not build a rollercoaster-style of transportation system just to keep things interesting for commuters? It must be cheaper than the other options because the rails are so much smaller.
Throw in a couple of loop-de-loops on the route and people won’t mind paying a couple of bucks extra to cover the costs.
Michael Booth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org