B.C. under fire again for 'down and dirty' email
Published Friday, February 6, 2009 7:57AM EST
VICTORIA - A B.C. cabinet minister who resigned from Premier Gordon Campbell's cabinet two years ago over a profanity-laced email to a constituent is facing questions about another email sent to a constituent this month.
Tourism Minister Bill Bennett's Feb. 1 email to the president of the chamber of commerce in Fernie, B.C., said the views of local chamber member and ski lodge operator Steve Kuijt on the 2010 Olympic Games are "short-sighted and ignorant."
In it he questions Kuijt's "intellectual level."
Bennett called Kuijt's Jan. 16 email to the Fernie chamber about the minister's Jan. 15 luncheon address "vicious and mean-spirited," especially since Kuijt, who runs a local ski lodge, did not attend the meeting.
"It is also quite revealing of Mr. Kuijt's intellectual level," said Bennett's email. "I cannot even begin to understand his reasoning that as MLA for Kootenay East, I must only be allowed to talk about tourism and no other issue."
Bennett also made reference to February 2007, when a rude and profanity-splashed email he sent to Fernie veterinarian Maarten Hart resulted in his resignation from cabinet, saying "having sent a few e-mails in my day I wish I hadn't."
Bennett's email came in response to Kuijt writing the Fernie chamber expressing disappointment that the Tourism Minister spoke more about coalbed methane development than he did tourism in a speech to the chamber.
Bennett also provided a blunt comment about what he called Kuijt's views on the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler.
"I certainly hope that Mr. Kuijt does not speak for the Fernie chamber with his short-sighted and ignorant comments about the Olympics," the email said.
Kuijt could not be reached for comment but the Opposition New Democrats called on Campbell to rein in his minister, who they said attacks people who disagree with his views.
NDP tourism critic Rob Fleming said the least Bennett should do is apologize to his constituent. Politicians, especially cabinet ministers, have a duty to graciously accept and respond to difficult questions, he said.
"I would like the minister to reconsider," Fleming said. "I think he owes this gentleman an apology. He's just raising issues that surely Mr. Bennett has to deal with on a regular basis."
Bennett said he spent two days crafting his email response, and he considers his comments fair and in keeping with the tough political climate in the Kootenays.
Bennett, in an interview, said there are "dark forces" in the Fernie area who are opposed to development, and he does not intend to bow to their demands.
"They play rough up there, and they want to get rid of me, and I'm not going easily," he said. "Politics where I come from is, honestly, it's down and dirty."