COLUMN: The ‘tie’ that binds local politics together

On these brilliant but rare days of winter the magnificence of Mount Baker is an awe-inspiring vista.

On these brilliant but rare days of winter the magnificence of Mount Baker is an awe-inspiring vista, but while we own the view, we don’t own the mountain.

On the other hand, the multi-faceted crags of the peaks north of Mission are ours, and clad in snow, are equally commanding of wonder at their beauty. Driving north along the Mission Highway across Matsqui Prairie, those rocky spires are postcard-perfect, capturing both your attention and your vision.

But while the mountains dominate, few actually ponder the pastoral fields and flats of Matsqui Prairie, and realize that this little flood plain has had, over the years, an enormous impact on the growth and vision of not only our city, but our province and even our nation.

For when you think about the Prairie’s historical contribution you remember that the last mayor of Matsqui – Dave Kandal – actually came from Matsqui Village, and the mayor before him – Harry De Jong – farmed just north of the village.

And ‘Abbotsford’s’ first MLA was Bill Ritchie, who operated a feed mill on the prairie’s southern verge and lived on the ridge overlooking the flats. Ritchie was our first MLA because up to then, our community was coupled with Chilliwack and had, until that time, been represented by a resident of that town.

But growth in the 1960s was such that Abbotsford finally outgrew Chilliwack and by the 1970s earned its own MLA, a position won by Ritchie. Bill served until 1986 when, again due to growth, our community then earned two MLAs, one of whom was Mayor Harry de Jong. Peter Dueck, who lived just south of the prairie joined Harry in Victoria.

Their service lasted through the early 1990s when, following resignations, young lawyer, school trustee and prairie dweller Michael de Jong won a by-election in 1994. He was followed in 1995 by farmer neighbour John van Dongen.

Then, when the inevitable rise in population caused us to have the representation of three MLAs, de Jong and van Dongen were joined by Mission resident Randy Hawes, whose riding now includes Matsqui Prairie.

And although we have never, at least in my memory, had a Member of Parliament spring from the fertile fields of Matsqui, I know the current one has a tenuous relationship to the village at its centre.

Two federal elections ago (and since there seemed to be a federal election every other year in the last half dozen years) I had, for reasons that baffled not only me, to vote at the poll in Matsqui Community Hall. Why someone who lives in the middle of Sumas Mountain had to drive all the way into Matsqui, travelling past at least three other federal polling stations was a mystery to me, and an anomaly that could only be explained by the strange workings of Elections Canada.

However, as I was casting my ballot in Matsqui Hall, who was there doing the same thing but MP Ed Fast. In a quick conversation he, who lives in the urban area of Abbotsford, was as mystified as I as to why both or either of us should be voting at that station.

But perhaps it was fate that the electorally successful spell of Matsqui Prairie worked for him as well.

So, when driving across the flats of Matsqui, know that the remarkable vistas of mountains actually look down upon a political landscape that has an unusual significance on how our governance has been created over the decades. I would suggest that there is no other area, especially one as tiny as it is, that has spawned so many successful politicians anywhere in Canada.

Only time will tell if the trend continues.

markrushton@abbynews.com

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