Tumbler Ridge Retains Its Mayor

Lynsey Kitching

It was a win-win situation for the residents of Tumbler Ridge regardless of the outcome of the MLA election. Either our mayor would go on to represent the South Peace Region, or we would get to keep our mayor.

In the last hours of May 14, we all knew the answer. Mayor Darwin Wren would remain our mayor, as Mike Bernier steps down as Mayor of Dawson Creek and into the MLA position.

Mayor Wren says, “It’s very surprising and goes to show the only poll that really matters is the last one. Polls are accurate 19 times out of 20, not 20 out of 20.”

So what next?

Mayor Wren says with a smile, “Back to work,” continuing, “We were a long shot in Peace River South. We knew that when we started. It looked like the NDP were going to win the election and I thought we should have someone in government if that were to be the case. Clearly the people chose to elect the Liberals again for another four years and we’ll respect that and move on.”

Mayor Wren congratulates Mike Bernier on his win and says, “He’ll be our MLA and I look forward to working with him.”

The dust is still settling on the election and Mayor Wren replies, “At this point, I can’t say [if I’ll run for MLA again]. Party politics is a lot different than running municipally. There are things about that, which I don’t necessarily like that much. But, you can never say never.”

Running regionally was a first for Mayor Wren and he walks away feeling as though all in all it was a positive experience, he says, “I think the big thing I can take away from this is I got to meet a lot of people around the South Peace. And I made a lot of good friendships and connections around the area. I think that was really positive. It was a good experience overall.”

Mayor Wren knew the NDP party would be fighting an uphill battle in the South Peace as he explains, “I knew we were in a very tough riding in this area and unfortunately that’s the way it is. People weren’t ready for a change, so we’re going to have more of what we had.”

He continues, “Hopefully, we are going to see Mr. Bernier successful in getting us increased healthcare, fixing some issues around education and increasing the skills training that we need.”

We’ve all seen those infamous speeches from past Prime Ministers, President’s and candidates that aim to reach people on an emotional level. Mayor Wren feels the Liberal party did this well during the election. He says, “This election came down in the end, where Liberals were able to evoke an emotional response from people; a core emotion of fear, whether the emotion was justified or not, we can debate that. You have to elicit an emotional response in people. Back in the Federal election when Jack Layton ran, he instilled hope and optimism. We were not able to do that to the level we needed to.”

An example of this fear tactic by the Liberals was claiming the NDP were going to shutdown all industry in the area as Mike Bernier said at the all-candidates forum here in Tumbler Ridge, “The NDP has candidates come out now and they are reiterating what they did in the 1990s, where they said no mines by ’99. There’s NDP candidates who were just in the news today saying if elected, we’re shutting down the oil and gas industry, we’re shutting down mining in British Columbia because we don’t want our natural resources being extracted anymore…I take a different stand.”

Mayor Wren says, “Certainly the NDP were not going to shutdown every industry in the province, but if you say it enough, people start to question. When people vote on emotion, things can really take some changes and that’s what happened,” he continues, “I don’t know what will happen in four years. It’s hard to say. You might see another emotion by then, and it will probably be anger, but you never know.”

Moving forward Mayor Wren thinks there are a lot of decisions the Liberals are going to have to make very quickly. He expresses, “Hopefully they are prepared to make them quickly. We have the whole notion of Site C sitting there, these pipelines, a whole bunch of stuff. I don’t know if the public necessarily supports those things. I am more worried about education, healthcare and the core services. I was supportive of all of our industry.”

In terms of the pipelines, Mayor Wren has the stance it is more important for BC to extract its own natural gas, as opposed to increasing Alberta’s income and says, “Those pipelines are very important for Alberta, I know talking to Enbridge and those folks, long-term there aren’t a lot of jobs for those things. A lot of the monitoring can be done from Calgary. Hopefully we build our own pipelines first. With the labour shortage, if we do the one from Alberta first, I don’t know where we are going to find the workers to build our own.”

However, everything is now up to the Liberal government.

Mayor Wren also feels disappointed and less for himself, and more for the volunteers on his campaign. He says, “I was disappointed for all the volunteers. They did a ton of work and it was sad for them. They were very emotional and put everything they had into it. This time it wasn’t going to be enough. We didn’t make any mistakes, we kept it as positive as we could, and there was nothing more the volunteers could have done.”

Moving forward, Mayor Wren is excited to get back to council chambers and keep positive change happening here in town. He says with a sincere smile, “I’m glad to be back, honestly. I was missing it. You’re on the outside watching and I want to be a part of it. Now I’m back and trying to catch up on stuff. There’s lots of work here to do in Tumbler Ridge and I’m looking forward to doing that. Party politics is probably not my calling.”