Morrison latest in a long line of MPS (including Parker and Graham)

Congratulations to Rob Morrison on his election victory Monday, Oct. 21, in Canada’s 43rd general election.

Mr. Morrison will now go on to represent the riding we now call Kootenay-Columbia in Canada’s Parliament.

Mr. Morrison has become the latest in a long list of Members of Parliament to represent the area containing Cranbrook, under all the various names and geographical outlines it has had, since 1894, when we were part of the Yale-Caribou riding (two MPs).

The Cranbrook region was peeled away to become part of the new Kootenay riding in 1904, and we were served by three MPs (elected in successive elections), until 1917 when the riding was reformed as Kootenay East.

Ten MPs represented the riding of Kootenay East from 1917 to 1966. That riding then was divided up between Kootenay West and Okanagan-Kootenay, until 1976, which saw the election of two MPs representing the Cranbrook area. Just in time for the 1979 federal election, the riding became Kootenay East-Revelstoke, and here we must pause for a moment to acknowledge perhaps the greatest political rivalry in the history of Southeast BC.

Over the course of four federal elections — 1979, ’80, ’84 and ’88 — epic political contests took place between Sid Parker of the NDP and Stan Graham of the Progressive Conservatives, with each winning every other election over the other. In 1979, Stan Graham was elected with 12,900 votes over Parker, who got got 11,107 votes. In 1980, Parker of the NDP won the election over Graham, 13,299 votes to 12,668. In 1984, Graham came roaring back, 18,129 votes over Parker’s 15,900. In 1988, Parker won again, 14,900 votes over Graham’s 13,284.

The riding then reverted back to the name “Kootenay East;” Graham retired from federal politics, and Parker lost the 1993 federal election to that colossus Jim Abbott of the Reform/Alliance/Conservative Party, who was MP when the riding became Kootenay-Columbia in 1997.

Abbott went on to win six more federal elections until his retirement ahead of the 2011 election, when the communities of Nelson and Revelstoke were added to the riding, changing the dynamic once again. We were subsequently represented by Conservative David Wilks, and since 2015 by the NDP’s Wayne Stetski.

But back to Parker and Graham. They faced off against each other time and time again, over more than 20 years, and I wonder what relations between them were like. Friendly? Gentlemanly? Hostile?

My late father ran for MP in 1979. His opponents were Bill McKnight and Alf Gleave. I was 17 and drove Dad to a small town for a candidates’ debate. We were sitting in a coffee shop beforehand, when both McKnight and Gleave came in, and sat down at the table with us. The three candidates bantered a bit; a joke, some campaign talk — they also sat with their coffees alone with their own thoughts, preparing themselves mentally for the debate in the next hour. It seemed quite comradely to me, though that debate was as vigorous as any I’ve seen, and that election was contentious enough.

The election of 2019 was marked by a great degree of vitriol, especially online. Elections aren’t supposed to be elegant affairs. Democracy is messy, and can turn fiery in a moment. But we can all bear witness to the increasing divisiveness of our political environment, from top to bottom. This is to be deplored.

I cannot believe that Parker and Graham, meeting each other time and time again in the febrile venues of a political campaign, would not have treated each other and each other’s supporters with friendliness and respect.

The Townsman thanks and congratulates all candidates for standing for public office.

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