Over the years, I have often disagreed with MLA Jordan Sturdy’s politics and have found his performance a little flat. Ironically, it’s as he steps down that I’ve been made to reconsider my opinion, first by an impartial friend and then by the former mayor himself.
On the eve of Sturdy’s resignation from his Pemberton mayoral post, I was discussing what — if anything — had been accomplished during his tenure with a friend who resides outside the village boundaries. She pointed out that he had done everything that he said he would do. She was right. While I may not have liked everything he did, there was no disputing there had been many changes in Pemberton during his three terms as mayor.
Among the changes: a community centre in the centre of the community, parks for biking, skateboarding and splashing around, water and sewer extended to the industrial park, a new community barn on its way to being raised, a water treatment system in place, boundary expansion, a new private school on the way and the return of Pemby-Palooza (a.k.a. Pemberton Music Festival).
So why did I deem his performance lacklustre? It might be because I never saw the passion behind his vision. (To be fair, there are few opportunities for genuine barnburner speeches when you’re talking about the operations of a tiny community with a miniscule tax base.) And then, last week, in his resignation speech, I saw him address the community’s future with a genuine barnburner.
In his resignation speech on Feb. 4, Sturdy outlined what he felt was the best course of action for the Pemberton Valley: reduce government.
While his whole speech was warm and heartfelt (especially the story about how he essentially “bought” the Pemberton Creek bridge from Whistler for 500 pounds of potatoes), it was his position on this issue that really showed what he is capable of as a leader.
He started by pointing out that the region has four distinct governments: the Village of Pemberton, the Lil’wat Nation, the Dyking District and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) — a lot of government for 6,000 people. He sees this structure as onerous, costly and complicated.
In his final words as mayor, he made it clear that a positive future for Pemberton depended on reducing governance in the area to allow for easier decision making. Sturdy spoke passionately about the future of the region being dependent on Pemberton becoming the single point of contact, but also emphasized the Village of Pemberton (VOP) and Lil’wat Nation would always need to work together. He fielded the idea of incorporating the Dyking District into the VOP’s public works. And he made it clear that he believes that the SLRD gets in the way when it comes to governing Pemberton, saying that, “it’s a wonder it works it all.”
He made no bones about it; he believes that if we are to move forward restructuring, our governance must be the number one priority for the community. He sees restructuring as an essential, positive action that will “serve the community for decades to come.”
Sturdy was impressive: articulate, passionate and crystal clear. And then, with a smile, he ended his speech with the assurance that should Pembertonians decide it’s time for the Valley to have two — perhaps even three — governing bodies, that we would have the full support of our MLA.
And from the looks on people’s faces in the gallery it was evident some liked that idea. Who knows where it will lead. But I do know I want to see more of this Sturdy in Victoria.