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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sit! Roll Over! Good MLA!

I read in the current issue of the B.C. Christian News that a minister is running for the B.C. Liberals in the Port Coquitlam riding, hoping to be elected next week.

Before so-cons in the riding smile, however, I have to warn you. Bernie Hiller might have already been housebroken for life in the B.C. Liberal caucus.  

The 29 year old, who resigned as missions and youth pastor at Coquitlam Alliance Church to run, was the only person wanting to run as a B.C. Liberal against veteran NDP MLA Mike Farnworth. Mr. Hiller, the newspaper profile notes, is known to people in the Coquitlam area because in addition to his church work, he has been "one of the leading advocates for the Cold Weather Mat Program, under which five churches offer shelter to the homeless in the Tri-Cities area."

The multi-church shelter-the-poor program, the article adds,  "raised some controversy, and involved numerous appearances before Coquitlam Council."

If you continue to read on, however, Mr. Hiller turns to the importance of ensuring that the B.C. Liberals are re-elected to protect the economy.

You would think that someone who until recently has been a minister might have some ideas on how he can live his faith out as an MLA. But, alas, his minders have already got to him.

"Hiller admitted he may face some challenging issues;" the story paraphrases him as thinking, "but the main controversial and moral political issues are federal, not provincial, responsibilities."

Oh? I'll cite some examples where an MLA might be able to do some good.

Pro-lifers in his riding might want him to pursue the idea, floated in the days of Bill Vander Zalm, that abortion be removed from B.C.'s provincial health care plan. Let those who have no objections to the procedure pay for it through a privatized health care option.

Another example is central to the mind of nearby B.C. Liberal candidate Marc Dalton these days. Mr. Dalton, a local teacher, was recently browbeaten into recanting some opinions that he expressed in an e-mail 12 years ago. At the time, he was worried that gay-positive initiatives in B.C. schools might not respect the beliefs of conservative parents. Perhaps parents in Mr. Hiller's riding are concerned about similar efforts in B.C schools, and as an MLA (and not a MP)  he would be well placed to help set policies for the B.C. Education ministry.

Mr. Hiller the voter and pastor might have been very interested in another idea for provincial legislation. Recall that he was one of the organizers of efforts by local churches to shelter the poor, which raised the ire of Coquitlam's city council. Two years ago, I related to Shotgun readers efforts by Vancouver's city council to regulate what Vancouver's churches wanted to do to help the poor in the city. Since then, a compromise has been reached.

Mr. Hiller, with his pastor hat on, might think it would be a good idea for his local MLA to suggest an amendment to B.C.'s legislation regulating local governments to the effect that churches, temples and synagogues may engage in social work without being regulated by cities and towns, on Charter of Rights grounds. (What a government regulates, it may also stop, or define out of existence.)

However, Mr. Hiller, about to perhaps put on his MLA hat, is already looking for reasons to not look at ideas like these, even before he is elected. He hasn't been elected yet and he is already making excuses that he won't, as an MLA, pursue certain issues.

Back when the Vancouver city government's Planning Department was trying to regulate church charity efforts, a friend of mine assailed their stance in a sermon, "So, all that we can do is sit in our churches and pray and sing and listen  to somebody preach?"

Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking "So, all that a conservative-thinking MLA can do is sit in the legislature and vote and applaud and listen to Gordon Campbell preach?"

If Mr. Hiller is elected, does he care to prove me wrong? I hope so.   

Posted by Rick Hiebert on May 6, 2009 in Canadian Provincial Politics | Permalink


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