Bob Simpson – Independent Legislator / Democratic Reformer

Who are you?

I’m a Scottish immigrant from a blue collar family who pursues his passions because life is too short to do anything else. I’ve been in the Navy; travelled extensively throughout North America, Europe and Africa; taught High School; experimented (unsuccessfully) in Retail; run a successful consulting and training business; been a corporate manager in forest products company; and am now an Independent ”legislator” in BC advocating for radical democratic reform.

What do you do for fun?

Bike, hike, kayak, sail, play guitar, soak in hot baths. Hanging with my apolitical friends is also a great way to chill. Better yet, time with my wife and two kids is the ultimate way for me to have fun; especially when we get to travel together.

What is your favourite community and why?

I love rural communities. The smaller the better. There’s a sense of belonging in smaller communities, walking into the local coffee shop is like walking onto a Cheers set where “everyone knows your name.” When I first moved to Quesnel and the Cariboo I didn’t like being known by so many people and never having a sense of privacy in public spaces — anonymity is probably a better term. Now I don’t like the anonymity of larger cities and love walking down the street saying hello to the majority of people I see. Belonging builds pride of place, which can help us create stronger community responses to challenges, including global ones.

What is your superpower?

The faces of my children and my nieces and nephews and their children. In fact, children in general. I hate the phrase: “the children are our future.” It’s absolutely false: we are our children’s future! The decisions we make determine their fate, not the other way around.

How do you use this power to build community?

I strive to involve young people in everything I do as their presence in a room or at an event forces a reality check on decision-makers. Cross-generational decision-making will lead to a more sustainable society faster than our current approach. Involving young people also vests them in their community and empowers them to address the issues that concern them rather than having them choose to opt out because they believe they don’t have a legitimate voice.

My three favorite things about Bob Simpson are…

1. He isn’t afraid stand up for what he believes in. In October of 2010, Simpson was kicked out of the NDP caucus for daring to question the leadership of then BCNDP leader Carole James. His transgression? Two sentences that were vaguely critical of James’ address at the UBCM in an online magazine. James demanded an apology and Simpson stuck to his guns. Things weren’t right in the BCNDP and hadn’t been for quite some time. Simpson knew this and many other BCNDP members and electeds also seemed to be aware of this. And deep down, maybe James knew this too. Perhaps sensing the end was near, she decided to make an example of dissenters by tossing Simpson out of caucus with little discussion from caucus or supporters. Months later the quiet resistance to the negative campaign style epitomized by Simpson’s critique exploded into a full blown revolt with outing of the baker’s dozen MLAs and a highly critical open letter from longtime MLA Jenny Kwan. Eventually James, the unity of her party shattered, was forced out. Now new voices are coming to the forefront with new visions for the BC NDP. Simpson’s actions were a catalyst to change and might not have happened had he not been willing to put his career on the line for what he believed was right.

2. His drive to make our political system better. Since he was elected Simpson has been a tireless advocate for electoral reform. His issue: the negative and antagonistic nature of our political system is turning voters off. Pitting one party against one another in such a hyper-partisan way puts primacy on negative sound bites and ads rather than vision and solutions. Sometimes the other side has good ideas that you agree with. Where’s the political mechanism to publicly support those measures? What if you don’t agree with what your party has to say about a certain issue? Simpson’s commitment to electoral reform and a better system for all of is thoughtful and should be supported.

3. He’s a champion of small rural communities. We Vancouverites are often too focussed on our big city affairs. We forget that there is a whole province out there. It is a beautiful province that many of us rarely get a chance to visit. In many cases, that province has dramatically different priorities and perspectives (on issues ranging from climate change to transit to taxes) than big city folks do. It’s easy for those ideas to be subsumed by the louder Metro Vancouver voice. That’s why its critical that rural communities have the leadership of a leader capable of representing their interests at a provincial level and someone who will not be stifled by the “power’s that be” down south. Considering his popularity up north, Simpson certainly seems to be that man.

…as told by Kurt Heinrich