By Stephen Vance, Editor
Last week our Member of Provincial Parliament, Bill Murdoch, bid farewell to Queen’s Park after having served in the legislature for nearly 21 years.
It is not often that an MPP from a rural riding like ours is able to generate the kind of profile that Murdoch has.
Some call him a maverick, others call him a rabble-rouser, some have called him things that I can’t print here.
And while you may love or hate him, what nobody has ever questioned about ‘Wild Bill Murdoch’ is his sincerity.
Although he has carried the banner of the Progressive Conservatives during election campaigns, Murdoch is different from most politicians in that he has never been willing to fall in line with his party if it didn’t feel right for himself or his constituents.
So determined has he been to represent the best interests of his riding ahead of the wishes of his party that he even found himself sitting as an independent for a spell after expressing some less than wonderful thoughts about the leader of his party.
But then Murdoch was likely always an independent anyway.
Only an independent member of the legislature could call the Premier of Ontario a liar and then when asked by the Speaker to apologize or leave, not only refuse to do either, but instead camp out in the legislature for a couple of nights in protest.
He is a man who is proud of his roots, proud of his community, and has worked as best as he knows how to represent not just the folks that voted for him, but those who did not.
Known to many in the Meaford area as ‘Bognor Bill’, Murdoch hasn’t saved his colourful but blunt style just for Queen’s Park.
Many will recall him calling for Meaford Mayor Francis Richardson to resign, calling the Mayor “incompetent” during the Bognor Bridge fiasco a couple of years ago.
Feeling that the construction of a new bridge was taking too long, Murdoch and fellow Bognor residents installed their own footbridge across Walter’s Creek one Sunday afternoon.
I still recall being there when the footbridge was installed. I was covering the story for the Meaford Express, and it was that day that I really came to respect Bill Murdoch. He wasn’t just shouting from the sidelines as many politicians do. He wasn’t just there for a photo opportunity. Murdoch had his work boots on and was helping shift that footbridge around to get it installed.
You didn’t have to agree with the things he had said about Meaford council or the municipal administration in order to respect the fact that from his perspective his community wasn’t being treated the way he and other Bognor residents felt they should be treated, and Murdoch was going to do something about it.
The summer after the bridge had been completed and reopened, Murdoch and the residents of Bognor held a huge street party on the bridge complete with a band, free hot dogs, and Wild Bill in his trademark kilt. Only one member of Meaford’s council attended the event, and that didn’t seem to bother Murdoch at all.
I’ve never voted for Murdoch, but in the time that I have lived in this riding I have never felt that my interests weren’t being represented at Queen’s Park. I have not always agreed with Murdoch’s views, but I have always respected them because I have spent enough time talking to or interviewing him to know that he is sincere in his beliefs, and he is not willing to let his party tell him what to do.
I respect that.
And while Murdoch’s representation of our riding at Queen’s Park will be missed, you can be sure that he will not go away. When talking to him last weekend he assured me that he will always have something to say about current issues – I have no doubt about that.
We can only hope that our next representative in the provincial legislature will be as unwilling to blindly fall into the party line as Murdoch was.
I have heard Murdoch say many times that the problem with our provincial and federal governments is the party system itself. He has said that the individual rights of elected members of parliament have been stripped away resulting in governments that fail to adequately represent the very people that elected them.
Though there is plenty that Murdoch and I would disagree on, we definitely agree on something he has also said often and that is this- If our members of provincial or federal parliament didn’t get elected to speak their minds, or to defend their constituents, or to change the system if need be, then what did they get elected for?
Spoken like a true independent.