EDITORIAL: Public can’t ignore party issues

The silence coming from MP Russ Hiebert speaks volumes.Hiebert (South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale) has been under fire since last week, after Peace Arch News revealed that executive members of his Conservative electoral district association (EDA) left last fall, citing dissatisfaction with their MP’s ongoing politicking.Hiebert did not return phone calls. A spokesperson in Ottawa deferred all comment on the issue to new EDA president Andrew McVie.While others have since stepped forward to voice displeasure with Hiebert and at the party’s decision not to allow open nominations to replace elected representatives, others have taken this newspaper to task for reporting rumblings of dissatisfaction.To the latter group, this smacks of a newspaper interfering in their personal housekeeping. It is true a party’s process of choosing a candidate could be considered internal politics. But once a party seeks money, support and, ultimately, votes from the public, some of the operations of that party become a matter of public interest.The concerns voiced by disaffected Conservatives – among them the former EDA president and communications chair –  suggest they are aware the public interest is a key factor in the business of convincing people to vote for their candidate.When a neighbour tells you of black smoke coming from your home, do you berate the neighbour – or set about seeing what the problem is? The neighbour, after all, is not hazarding a guess on the source of that smoke. The neighbour doesn’t know who set the fire, what is on fire or what that implies about general housekeeping. But show us smoke, and we can be generally sure something is burning.Perhaps the present tinder is nothing more than old slights, wounds and grievances. Perhaps some are fighting battles that should be over. But does that make dissatisfaction any less real?It’s hard, also, not to applaud the democratic wish of some Conservatives that they have the right to choose their own representative – whether Hiebert or some other contender. Perhaps the fiercely loyal Hiebert partisans of the EDA should reflect what their reaction would be if evidence of disarray had emerged from the ranks of elected Liberals, New Democrats or the Bloc Quebecois.Local Conservatives may ultimately decide they are publicly behind Russ Hiebert. But if they intend to put out any internal fires, they have first to acknowledge they have seen the smoke.