Each week during the campaign, we talk to one former B.C. premier about the current provincial campaign and why it matters. This week: former Social Credit premier Rita Johnston (1991)
What makes the election of 2013 important in your view?
I don’t know if there’s anything specific. It’s just a matter of whether you have any priority that, government-wise, is being dealt with, or not dealt with, and what kind of service you feel you’re getting from your elected officials. I think all elections are important.
What are the big, key issues of this election?
It’s honesty. I am finding that some of the commitments and promises and statements that are coming out of the mouths of some of our politicians leave a bit to be desired. I just don’t understand what is going on there now when they say things and you know they’re not true. Honesty, to me, is at a real low in Victoria. Maybe because I have got more time on my hands, I notice it more.
I know sometimes when I see them on the news making statements, I sit here and shake my head. Deep down, I have a problem accepting everything the Liberals say. And [NDP leader Adrian] Dix? I have written him off, but I am one of the few people that have.
What’s the best advice you ever received on getting through an election campaign?
Be yourself. No baloney. Don’t go out there and start trying to be somebody you’re not and not being level with the public. And then we’re back to honesty again. Whether people like it or not, you are who you are. They should know what they’re getting if they vote for you. I have to say that [advice] is probably something I got before. I was a Surrey alderman. It probably started then. It probably came from my husband and my family. Don’t be a phoney. If you’re honest with the people, you don’t have to stop and think, “What did I say about this yesterday and what am I going to say today?” If you change your mind, you stand up and admit it and say, “I think there’s a better way of doing this.” Be right up front with the people. There’s nothing worse than a phoney politician.
What do you say to those that don’t vote?
Don’t complain. If you don’t participate in a process that is so important and valuable, to me you’re not entitled to complain.
As a former premier who has left active politics, what do you do during elections? Is it easy to sit on the sidelines? Do you look at it in a different way?
Since I have been up in Vernon, I haven’t been so active. But when I was still down in the Lower Mainland, I participated in the campaigns as much as I could. I would be out knocking on doors or working in the office or helping with whatever arrangements had to be done. Now, I have been going to our local political meetings, but we’re getting older. We’re not quite as involved as we were before. I don’t know the candidates as well, but I know my candidates here and I’ve been to local constituency meetings, and said I would help in the office. [Ms. Johnston has been associated with the B.C. Conservative Party.]
This interview has been edited and condensed.