Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Watching politicians remains my life

Back in 2007, I wrote this post about the Calgary civic election. We are now in the throes of a provincial election campaign. Many things from my 2007 post still ring true, so I decided to revisit it and update it. Some of this is repetitive, for which I make no apology, as little has changed in politics where I live in the last 5 years.


Politics. Politicians. Why do both these words make me want to wash my mouth out with soap?

The governing Alberta Conservative party, who have been in charge for just over 40 years, called a provincial election about 2 weeks ago. I’m willing to bet that by now:
1) You've endured 6 month or more of folks running to be new candidates for an election no one had called but everyone knew was coming;

2) You’ve had 32 chances to meet a sitting politician you haven’t met since the last time they ran for election, and they are all telling you what a fantastic job they have done for you;

3) You’ve learned that people you have never heard of are running for some of the positions; all are willing to tell you they are the right person for the job because they led a scout group or brush their teeth twice a day;

4) Some politician or political wanna-be has promised you that the community’s and/or city’s problems would all be solved by simply electing them. This includes crime, homelessness, graffiti, air quality, the environment, global warming, and the fact that pantyhose run the minute you put them on.

There are some things I admire about politicians. Virtually all are fighting to do something they think deep down in their core is important and right; they actually are trying to change the world. They’re consciously taking on a job that is normally thankless and where the single most important key to success is the ability to actually listen to their constituents. The latter also means they must recognize that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, so they are accepting a job where about half of the people will be unhappy at what they are doing at any given moment in time. By listening, their job is to listen to everyone equally; a tough thing to do when there exist lobbyists whose sole job it is to get heard more than you or me.

Sadly, there are a lot more things I don’t like about politicians. I don’t like the way they adopt motherhood statements and soundbites to talk of actual problems we could do something about. Motherhood is “better health care, better government, a better future.” Better government? They've only been in charge for 40 years. Are they telling me the last 39 were just practice, and only NOW they can get it right? Why couldn't they do it "better" before?

I really don’t like it when politicians tell me they’re doing something for my good, and then actually do it for someone else’s good. It was “for my good” that the last bunch of bozos upped the royalties in the Province and turned us from a good place to invest to somewhere on a par with a third world country. I worked third world countries. I listened to my company owners make investment decisions. I can't disagree with the pull out of capital. It decimated my industry. It wasn't for my good, it was for the good of Government greed.

And indeed I have lost all my faith in the current group of politicians as guardians of the province’s development. Their greed and frankly stupid decisions wrecked my industry, and now they're the ones who say they can support it best. They figured out how to take the richest province in Canada, the only one that was debt free and running regular surpluses, and overspend their way to massive deficits, but yet have basically nothing to show for it. Our infrastructure is not better. Our education system is not better. Our parks system is not better.  Our agricultural community is not better. Nothing is better than it was 10 years ago, and much is worse.

I don’t like politicians, who are elected and then disappear, only to show up 4 years later when they want their jobs back. I miss my former MP Jim Prentice, whom I heard from from time to time and saw him engaged a lot. I don't even know who my last MLA was in our new home riding, and including our condo, we have been a part of this riding for 4 years.

What I do know about them is that he/she was a member of the Conservative party, and that they quit.

Running in their place? The Mayor of Canmore. Notice I did not say "former Mayor of Canmore". No, the Mayor took a "leave of absence" to run. If he loses, he's still Mayor. That's just greedy. He should have had to resign as Mayor to run. That puts skin in the game, and tells me he's committed. As it is, he has one foot in the Mayor's office, and one in the Provincial party. Because politicians sit on fences a lot, and I don't like that.

I don't like politicians because they all, irrespective of party, feel a sense of entitlement. The Conservatives believe a 40 year track record entitles them to govern again. The Provincial Legislative Assembly -- all the parties, not just the ruling one -- vote themselves pay increases others don't get because they feel entitled to it. They felt they were entitled to a fantastic pension system, so they voted in one that means they get a full pension -- starting the moment they stop serving -- if they serve only one term (serve 4 years in a company and you'll have earned practically no pension). There was a recent story about a ~30 member, all party government committee that hasn't met in 3 years (the meeting 3 years ago was 15 minutes long), but have been getting paid $1,000/month for being on the committee. Not one of the ~30 ever stood up and said "What?" It took a watchdog agency to bring it up, then all the committee members, from all the parties, said they'd give the money back -- all except the Conservative members. The interviews I saw with them were an embarassing testament to entitlement ("Well, I don't get paid to sit on other committees"). Finally (after more than 2 months) they were goaded into it by bad press and falling polls.

I have generally supported the Conservatives, but in the last 10 years, there’s very little that former Premier Ed Stelmach said or did that I agreed with, and if there was, I can’t remember what it was. Thankfully, he stepped down (and took that pension). His replacement, however, was his Justice Minister. Mr. Ed's predecessor, Premier Klein, actually ran the province pretty well, and pulled us out of the fiscal mess he inherited from his predecessor, Premier Getty (who screwed up the great work of his predecessor, Premier Lougheed). The 40 year dynasty started with Mr. Lougheed.

But I think most of all I don’t like politicians who claim to represent me, but in fact carry a completely different viewpoint, so let's look back at the recent past. Over the last 10 years, I have disagreed with the Mr. Ed's stance on royalties, on electricity deregulation, on transportation planning, on education funding, on the management of health care delivery, on parks funding… well the list goes on. The new leader, Premier Redford, does not in my opinion, recognize the failures of the past, nor how to fix what her party (and she, as part of the Cabinet) wrecked. This ought to tell you how I will not vote in the upcoming election. And I will vote.

But in the end, what matters is that everyone who reads this (and is eligible) actually does vote, because elections matter. They impact your life. They affect your pocketbook. This one's not about nebulous problems like Afghanistan, Chinese human rights violations or Arctic Sovereignty, it's about whether you can find a campsite or how long it will take you to get an MRI when you torque your knee.

And if you don’t vote, you don’t earn the right to diss politicians for at least 4 more years. Or, at least, not provincial ones.

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