BEPPLE: What does Harper want with Kamloops?

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn

Let sleeping dogs lie.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is coming to Kamloops. Perhaps, a visit long overdue. As reporter James Peters of CFJC-TV quickly pointed out, Stephen Harper hasn’t visited Kamloops since he was the opposition leader. That’s way back to before January 2006. That means he hasn’t been to Kamloops for almost 10 years.

For the last 10 years, Harper was willing to leave Kamloops alone, to let sleeping dogs lie.

But now he’s coming to Kamloops. Something must have changed.

For 10 years, Harper hasn’t come to Kamloops partly because there was no reason to come. For example, Kamloops hasn’t had any major natural disasters lately, like the recent Okanagan fires or the Alberta floods in 2013. There haven’t been any industrial catastrophes like Lac-Mégantic in Kamloops for Harper to visit.

PM Harper often visits significant employers, like when he went Oakville, Ont., to announce funding for the auto sector. Or when he went to New Brunswick to announce funding for forestry. Kamloops may have Highland Valley Copper, largest open pit copper mine in Canada, at its doorstep, but that wasn’t enough of a reason for Harper to visit. This despite his visiting mining operations in Northern Saskatchewan, Nunavut, and Yukon. It’s better to go places that need help. Mining is strong here, so is forestry, so no visits from Harper.

Perhaps Harper hasn’t come to Kamloops because, for one, Kamloops for the most part does pretty well at figuring things out on its own. The different levels of government, federal, provincial, First Nations, and municipal are able to work together cooperatively, whatever their differences. There haven’t been any issues that required Harper’s attention to solve.

It’s just as likely that Harper hasn’t come to Kamloops in the last 10 years because Harper hasn’t needed Kamloops.

But now he does. Now Harper needs every seat he can get, and he knows that Conservative incumbent Cathy McLeod’s seat is in jeopardy from NDP candidate Bill Sundhu.

So after 10 years of ignoring Kamloops, Harper’s dog and pony show is coming to town. Harper will come here and tell us he knows who we are, what we need, and what’s important to us. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

Whatever he says, I hope he’s done his homework, and knows what’s important to Kamloops.

I hope he gives credit to the RCMP and Interior Health, who partner to help people with mental health problems get health services instead of being incarcerated. A nod to Kamloops’ First Nations court, one of the first in the province, which provides a holistic and restorative approach to sentencing offenders.

Kamloops is on the busiest mainline for rail traffic in Western Canada, so an acknowledgement to the work of the railroaders, and the importance of continued vigilance on rail safety by the federal government, might be appropriate too.

With school started, the transit buses are chock full. I hope he makes mention to how great the Kamloops transit system is, but that it could easily expand, and that a national transit strategy could help smaller cities like Kamloops just as much as larger ones.

Kamloops wasn’t on the radar for Harper for the last 10 years. But it is now. So before he comes to town, I hope he does his homework and finds out what matters to us, before telling us what he thinks we should be doing.

Finally, I hope he acknowledges that he’s on the traditional territory of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc. It’s part of what we do.

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