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On John Cummins, political dogfights and pot

Former Delta MP John Cummins during a press conference where he formally announced he wants to lead the BC Conservative Party in Vancouver March 29, 2011.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Liberal and NDP leadership races are over, the federal election is done, provincial and municipal election campaigns have not yet begun. Taking advantage of a temporary lull in political news, the lone candidate for the leadership of the BC Conservative Party, John Cummins, is grabbing some headlines as he travels the province.

Mr. Cummins says Conservative Party members of the legislature would be set apart from the current batch of politicians by being responsible to their constituents, not to the party, the Comox Valley Record reported. According to Mr. Cummins, the top four issues on the provincial agenda are the HST, the high cost of health care, the lack of commitment to adequate policing services and treaty negotiations.

The newspaper reported that he insisted the provincial government must respect any municipal government which results from treaty negotiations. But Mr. Cummins added, "at the end of the day, all Canadians are equal."

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NDP MLA Robin Austin (Skeena) had a different perspective on the top issue in the province. It's the economy, Mr. Austin told the Kitimat Northern Sentinel. Mr. Austin predicted the next provincial election, which may be called as early as this September, would be "an absolute dogfight".

The NDP has to convince British Columbians that the party's approach to the economy had changed over the past decade. If the party could make that argument, it had a good chance of winning, he told the newspaper. "If we can't, we won't," Mr. Austin said.


With an eye on upcoming election campaigns, a city councillor in Campbell River has appealed for tougher restrictions on election signs. Councillor Andy Adams was particularly disturbed by election signs among the daffodils surrounding the "Welcome to Campbell River" sign and along the city's waterfront. He told city council that the signs were taking away from the city's natural beauty, the Campbell River Mirror reported.

Mr. Adams said he was aware that the city cannot ban election signs from public property but he still wanted city staff to look for alternatives. "It would be nice to have a little bit better environment than what we've become accustomed to in past elections," he said.


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The Ministry of Social Development's treatment of a woman with mental illness and on a disability pension sparked an angry column in the Campbell River Mirror by social advocate Sian Thomson.

The 61-year old woman did not declare income she had been receiving while the ministry was paying her a pension of $906 a month. She was convicted of theft over $5,000 and ordered to pay back $20,000, Ms. Thomson wrote.

"Welfare in B.C. has harsh rules that force welfare recipients into a day-to-day struggle for survival . . . Welfare since 2002 has been structurally dependent on charities and food banks in order for people to meet their basic needs. So excuse the poor people for misreading the rules about their windfall because they are too busy buying fresh fruit and vegetables for once, or finally being able to move out of an abusive situation," she wrote. " It is certainly an embarrassment when we take a 61-year-old disabled woman to court and slam her with a criminal record when there was no intent on her part to do anything wrong," Ms. Thomson said.


Meanwhile in federal politics:

The Nanaimo News Bulletin is calling for national debate on pot laws.

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An Ontario court ruling last month gave Ottawa 90 days to fix regulations on medical marijuana. The federal government appealed the ruling. The ruling should be seen as an attempt to advance the discussion about public policy on medical marijuana, says an editorial in the newspaper.

"Regardless of where Canadians stand on medical marijuana and the decriminalization of pot in general, this latest round of legal wrangling should reinvigorate the discussion, both in the legal and general public realms, about where we as a country stand on pot. It's widely agreed that the prohibitionist 'war on drugs' is an astronomically expensive failure, at least as it relates to marijuana. What's most needed now is a frank and intelligent conversation about where to go next. The Ontario ruling must be seen as the opening remark."

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