EDITORIAL: Out with a whisper

Evidently South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert intends to leave the arena of local politics much the way he arrived – with a smile and a wave, and precious few explanations for voters in his riding.

His decision last week not to run for a fifth term in 2015 has been handled typically. A sudden news release, followed by a firm refusal to comment further.

No matter that the language in which his decision is couched – spending time with his family, returning to legal practice, pursuing corporate opportunities – is sufficiently ambiguous to provoke speculation.

But Hiebert has always seemed unmoved by such matters.

Virtually a stranger on the scene when he first joined the 2004 federal race for the longtime right-wing stronghold, Hiebert’s tenure as local representative has not been characterized by a willingness to answer tough questions on the fly.

Some clearly feel he has done a good job for the community, particularly in seeking federal dollars for local infrastructure. But others have been less than impressed by an MP who, for the average voter, has been hard to locate, let alone engage on thorny issues, outside of carefully stage-managed events, such as Canada Day picnics, seniors forums and ‘good news’ photo-ops.

Whenever protesters gather at the local MP’s office, he is usually nowhere to be found. When media have clamoured for comment – such as when he was found to have the second highest MP expenses in Canada, or when opponents have taken him to task for his private member’s bill targeting unions, or when they have questioned his Conservative government’s record in helping Canada’s disabled veterans – his response has been cautious, carefully prepared and, often, long after media deadlines.

With due respect, Hiebert is not a politician noted for off-the-cuff eloquence or one who has seized the opportunity to defuse hostility with down-to-earth debate.

If he were, he would be willing to answer a few of our many remaining questions:

What grade would you give yourself as an MP? What do you say to voters who query the large pension you will receive? To what extent is your decision motivated by the rough ride your private member’s bill received from legal critics and senior politicians? And, finally, what do you intend to accomplish in the remaining 15 months of your term?

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