Running a town is nice, but, for obvious reasons, it isn’t the same as running a country. Mayors have to work with city councils and provincial and federal politicians—they rarely have the resources to make major decisions on their own. For someone who wants a solid grip on power and hands on the reins, life as a municipal politician is too quaint, too much like a child nagging a parent for a few bucks to spend at the corner store (unless you live in Montreal or Toronto, but that’s another story). Perhaps that’s why Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts decided to climb the political ladder.
Watts has served as an elected official in Surrey for the past 19 years, and as mayor since 2005. She remains popular in the area. Last April, she made the somewhat shocking announcement that she wouldn’t seek re-election in 2015. Was she tired of the cutthroat world of politics? Sick of playing political games to secure re-election? Fed up with corruption and lobbyists? No. Actually, it seems she wanted more of all these things. Thankfully for her, she knew exactly where to get them.
Watts recently announced that she plans to seek the federal Conservative nomination in South Surrey-White Rock. In doing so, she made two things clear: (1) she wants to move to Ottawa, and (2) she thinks the Conservative Party of Canada has the best chance of getting her there. Her desire to move to Ottawa is understandable (ignoring the gaping, infected wound that is Parliament Hill, the city is actually a nice place). However, her decision to join the Conservative Party invites more speculation. Thankfully, she explained her reasoning.
When asked, Watts said that she will run to represent the party because “[she’s] been a small-c conservative for quite some time…[she] also [has] a significant social conscience.” Why else is Watts so keen on the big C? According to Watts, “the downing of the two airlines, the beheading of foreign journalists as well as aide workers, [and] kidnapping of young girls” all led her to question who could best fill Canada’s “moral obligation” to be a leader. After deep thought, she concluded, “for [her], the answer was Stephen Harper.” She added that she wants to advocate for local issues like transportation infrastructure and crime. At this point, any readers not laughing must surely be confused.
Has Watts forgotten the last 8 years of Canadian history? She should know that the Canadian English dictionary dropped conservative with a small “c” when Peter MacKay killed the brand. Is she a comedian planning to run a Sketchy the Clown style campaign? I can hardly imagine another reason for which she could associate having a social conscience with running for the CPC. Alternatively, she could be a dreamer trapped in a fantasyland in which Conservative MPs somehow have a right to express individual opinions and advocate for local issues outside of gazebo-building. If that’s true, she should enjoy the ride while she can. But she should be cautious, since, by implying that airplane problems, beheadings, and kidnappings are suddenly a problem, she suggests that she was indeed born yesterday. If that’s the case, file photos should indicate that she must have some sort of Benjamin Button condition. This is all a bit farfetched.
A more realistic reason for Watts’ decision? The riding of South Surrey-White Rock has elected a Conservative in every election since its creation 10 years ago. If Watts wants the best chance to win in the riding, she has to run as a Conservative. Now things are becoming clear. Watts wants to win, so she’s willing to fly whichever flag will let her do that. Hers is a classic move, but it’s also a dirty trick, for, ironically, by subscribing to a party ideology in order to win and represent her local riding, she may forfeit her right to truly represent her local riding. For now, that’s her loss. Depending on how the nomination contest goes, the people of South Surrey-White Rock could soon have an opportunity to make it their problem too.