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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Ontario's Statesman

The Parliamentarians are caught between the push-and-pull of partisan loyalties and constituency demands, working in jobs that have no descriptions; no doubt much of the rancour we see on the Legislative floor is vented frustration about the lack of understanding anyone (themselves included) has about their role.

Partisan shops have one clear mandate - win.  Policy choices, communication approaches, which groups are courted/which get pissed off and how many human resource hours are spent digging up dirt on opponents instead of solution R&D are all reflections of the need to get more seats than they other Parties.

It's not their fault, though - as we've seen with Peter Shurman, they are simply playing by the existing rules of the game.  If you buy into a Randian worldview, that's how it should be - the clever people find whatever way possible to further their own interests, which is what we're seeing play out across the land.

From the Member up to the Leader to the support staff, it's theoretically possible that Political People could hold themselves to a higher standard and set an example we can all be proud of, but what's the motivation?  There's not a lot of adulation in politics from people other than your supporters; for the most part, if an elected official wants credit for positive work they do, they have to promote those things themselves.  We'd love for our political leaders to aspire to something greater - yet when they do, we demonize them as not being reflective of us.

There's a reason so many people are cynical about politics - especially those that are in it.  The transit file provides a great metaphor; as posturing takes over planning, we spent increasing amounts of time and energy getting nowhere.

Of course the point of Parliamentary Democracy isn't to fuel tribal competition at the expense of progress; it's to ensure a healthy debate of ideas, ensuring the best, most considered options are the one that are made policy.  Sometimes, like now, it takes a voice that stands above the fray to remind us - and the politicians and Parties - of this. 

Enter David Onley.

As LG, Onley's position is largely a ceremonial one; cut ribbons, attend functions, hobknob with persons of importance.  Like many of our elected representatives, he could stick to that role and rightfully say he's just doing his job - it's not his fault that the people are losing faith.

Leadership isn't about shirking responsibility - it's about recognizing problems and catalyzing solutions.

Onley has recognized, as many of us have, that the pillars of our democracy - representation by population and respectful debate - are both in decline.  Instead of point fingers of blame and ensuring he fills his cup before the waterhole shrinks, he's trying to do something about it.

It might not work.  As Onley himself said, it's no easy task, encouraging opponents to humanize each other.

But at least he's trying.  The challenge now is for the Parliamentarians to follow his example.  If they fail to do so, they've got no one but themselves to blame.

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