By George Orr
Politics is a risky business. I know because I got thrown out even before I got nominated.
Throughout a 35-year professional career in the news business, reporting, producing and teaching, I had never ventured a political opinion. You can’t do the job if you’re not objective. I was there the day Social Credit premier Bill Bennett called the 1979 election. I’ve had my nose pressed against the political glass ever since.
The political drama here is first-rate, even if every player isn’t. I’ve seen them rise and fall, covered the most fascinating, preposterous, and sublime stories one could imagine. In my time I taught journalism to more than 800 students, with the primary lesson being to never reflect favour in your work. Advocacy just can’t happen.
Then I retired. My wife and I worked on an elephant rescue farm in northern Thailand. I was surrounded by very large animals, and by people with a good purpose: to help. I enjoyed my time, but it wasn’t my purpose.
Then it landed. Last Christmas I wrote a long letter to the B.C. Greens, telling them I wanted to be elected Green in North Vancouver–Lonsdale and had the chops to make it happen. I vowed to be tireless. I admire their principles, and feel the urgency of the need for substantive change in governance and how we must evolve from our carbon economy. To me, global warming reminds me of my generation’s bogeyman, the atomic bomb.
Bringing change: I had found my purpose.
From the start they were a little bewildered. Some old guy, white hair, no hands-on political experience, threatening to knock on 10,000 doors? But I was relentless. Just give me the nod, and I’m off! I went to campaign workshops where I was one of the few Greens from the Lower Mainland. I showed up at the June B.C. Green convention in Victoria: loud, proud and primed to campaign. I put together my campaign core group, and spent months drinking coffee, preaching, cajoling, meeting, listening, and recruiting. By early summer I had an impressive email list as I waited for the nomination.
In response to their formidable vetting questionnaire I replied with 39 pages of everything there is to know about me. No secrets, and no surprises. The last thing a party wants is a candidate with a secret that, once exposed, will work very badly for everyone. My commitment to myself was to be dead honest. About everything. All the time. With everybody.
Exhaustive? Yes. Refreshing? Likely. Naïve? Seems so.
The nomination opened. No other hat appeared in the ring. Let’s get going. I’d been chomping at the bit for nine months.
I get a phone call. There are concerns. Exactly how did I conduct myself in the '60s? I confirmed what I’d written. A combination of personal tragedy concurrent with the counterculture of the day captured me and held me down, nothing horrible, just very sad, until I was able to move from Toronto to Vancouver, and start life over again.
Had I written that the B.C. Greens were political virgins, timid, and possibly looking at the fate of other small parties? Yes. And that’s why I joined, I wrote. I brought the heavy-lifting background and context to make a positive difference. And surely my long experience in media would be valuable.
Several days later, the next call. Rejected. No reason given. Appeal? I tried.
Now I’m on the sidewalk, completely at a loss as to why. I’ve never had my integrity or character questioned before. I fired back, demanding particulars. They tell me that concerns about my privacy prevent or anyone else from knowing. Feels like Catch-22 to me.
In the words of a friend:
“I can only surmise that it was superficial and clumsy and that in a hasty moment, otherwise well intentioned people managed to land on the wrong side of the fence. In the spirit of anyone can make a mistake, I am inviting you to reconsider your decision.”
But they won’t. At the very least, backing down involves losing face. Stonewall.
That is the story of the shortest political career in B.C. history.