Sunday, March 13, 2011

Governance in a Mature Democracy

It is quite remarkable to me that those who would advocate the abolition or reduction of government use government to advocate for such a position. I would advise caution when evaluating such an approach.

I absolutely do not for a moment advocate "rule" but I do advocate for governance. Accountable and effective, it empowers and equips the bureaucracy to embrace efficiency and effectiveness, thereby truly supporting its citizens. Such an approach will not support systemic waste. It will not support mediocrity. It will not support "politicizing" as none of those things are truly capable of coexisting within the governance model I propose.

Fundamentally supported by the power of an engaged electorate, political leaders then must act to execute with courage and commitment the mandate given to them. Those who have ensured their election expect their leaders to serve their communities. It is in my view highly cynical that that same electorate is simply electing the candidate so that they can advocate for the termination of the very system that they would lead you to believe that they support.

Cutting government, cutting services, cutting open, constructive and courageous dialogue with all sectors of "The Alberta Partnership" is quite frankly a simpler, quicker and less accountable approach than the governance model. We have seen the disastrous effects of lack of corporate governance. We wag our collective finger at the corruption in the system. And yet with, in my mind, far more valuable matters - our health, children, seniors, families and communities - some are prepared to allow a market model to replace governance because we have been convinced it doesn't work. I disagree. It is in fact the very inattention to the system which has led to its disrepair and the fact that those inside it no longer feel empowered or equipped to work within it.

Easy answer - get rid of it, and allow an individual and corporate competitiveness model to be the "new system". Courageous answer - and the one I feel the majority of Albertans want and need from their political leaders is to fix the system by addressing its inherent redundancy, waste and in some cases mismanagement, thereby empowering and equipping the individuals within it to meet the needs of Albertans for generations to come.


Cam said...

Cutting government redundancies is clearly a priority and needs to be accomplished; however, assuming that government can be run as a corporation is simply folly. It is the government's roll to further enhance the lives of its citizenry. Alberta has been blessed with a dearth of natural resource wealth and, in my opinion, we have squandered that wealth and engaged in generational tyranny for our children.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is for the most part, simply window dressing and exercises in public relations; government cannot engage in it as there are simply different expectations for business compared to government. Corporations mandate is simple: increase shareholder value now. Government's mandate is different in that it can look to the longer term. Government can craft 10, 15, 25, 50-year plans and needs to.... now. If we do not have a plan (as the current government has shown for the last 40 years) then we will never achieve our long-term goals.

I think that there needs to be a clear separation of government and industry (which we do not have now). That close relationship clouds the public interest and makes for weak policy when looked at through a long-term view. I think the Alberta Party's approach to building policy is brilliant and a true exercise of democracy by building consensus to further that end.

You've hit the nail on the head, change is going to require courage and not a little amount of political will. The question I think that falls to the side, is this: do politicians focus on doing what's right for their constituents? or, focus on what will lead to their re-election? If it is the former, then the shades of grey between right and wrong are easier to navigate. If it's the later, then loss of credibility is the natural result and further lowers the populations expectations in 'politicians'.

Kevlar said...

Well put, Chris. "Voting with your wallet" is no substitute for actually voting. Representative democracy is a more powerful force for (positive) change than the market can ever be.