Partisan politics

Should partisan provincial politics really have a role in the election of a local school trustee?

If Chilliwack voters thought the provincial election ended with the surprise victory of the BC Liberals in May, they were wrong.

The battle still rages, but this time it’s at the school board level.

There are six people vying for the seat left vacant by the resignation of school trustee Louise Piper. But judging by the level of activity on social media, there are only two: Ben Besler and Dan Coulter.

The lines are clearly drawn between the two. Although both claim they are running non-partisan campaigns, their supporters offer a different message.

With Besler, that’s not surprising. The BC Conservative-turned BC-Liberal was on the front lines in the election win of Chilliwack MLA John Martin. It was a hard-fought campaign, but most of the vitriol was on the right, between Martin’s Liberal camp and the BC Conservative’s of Chad Eros.

This time his campaign is clearly in the sights of the left. For Coulter supporters, Besler’s affiliation with the BC Liberals is his chief liability. Indeed, a meeting between Besler and education minister Peter Fassbender prior to the campaign was being spun as an indictment of his political allegiance.

Coulter is clearly the choice on the left, with many of the same voices who supported former NDP MLA Gwen O’Mahony now actively supporting him. (O’Mahony’s Twitter photo shows her posing with Coulter.)

This level of involvement in a school board byelection is encouraging. But are the red-state, blue-state politics really helpful?

Lost in the crossfire of partisan potshots is the reality of who we are electing and why.

We want a trustee who is focused on the challenges faced by the Chilliwack school district. We want someone committed to the betterment of educational outcomes for our students, someone who can work within the narrow confines of the powers granted a trustee and who can give our students the best chance in a dynamic and complex world.

If we are to make a choice between the six candidates asking for that privilege, let it be based on that – not who they voted for in May.

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