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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.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Do The Right Thing: Solving The Wrong Problem

There are so many smart, competent people on all sides of the political divide right now.  Most of them have no training to do the jobs they're technically tasked with doing (and receiving partisan pressure to do a different job besides) but the latent potential is staggering.  

Add to this an Ontario Public Service on the early edge of transformational change, with many of the functionally fixed players weaned on the ways of government during the tail end of the Industrial Age retiring and making way for a new generation that's grown up with social media and a whole new way of engaging.

Yet it all goes squirrely when it political sales and power comes into the question.  

We have budgets designed as campaign platforms being released in advance by political aides through one-off announcements, yet preemptively being leaked by disgruntled bureaucrats sending not-so-subtle signals that they're not willing to be treated like trained seals, as they have been under successive governments for decades.

I keep hearing from the smart people at the top of the political ladder "you have to identify the right problem if you want to find the correct solution," yet they keep ignoring their own advice.

Look, I get it - politics is about winning, power, the corner office, so on and so forth.  Yay, power.  

But the people in those corner offices have at least some inkling to how influenced they are by the people who put them in power - political organizers and funders in the private sector with their own agendas at play.  So, being in power isn't the be-all and end-all because you're still beholden to someone else.

And it's even messier - Parties are beholden to stakeholders, MPPs are beholden to Parties, but also constituents.  Often these interests don't add up.  When you have a Member (or candidate) forced to choose sides between Party platform (and Party support) or constituent concerns (and actual votes) you can't but end up with at least a partial analysis paralysis.

Look at the budget documents and platforms we're getting.  They are all check-lists of one-off projects or funding designed to appease a given stakeholder group.  There are no carefully-research structural reforms, cross-Ministerial service studies or revisions to internal operation with an eye towards making what exists now work better.

Political Parties are throwing starfish back in the ocean one at a time while tens of thousands of others are left to bake in the sun.

We have completely forgotten the whole point of Political Parties in the Legislature - it's not so that they can fight for power and dominate the agenda with one perspective or the other, it's so that they can find balanced solutions that represent the best interests of varied constituencies.  

That's been lost.  It's been lost largely because our system was never designed to have Parliamentarians in Cabinet in the first place.

We can keep at this merry-go-round of political-pendulum swinging, but the people are starting to get motion sick and want off the ride.  That includes the politicians themselves.

The problem we face isn't that one Party is more corrupt than the other, more beholden than the other.  It's that our entire system is antiquated and inadequate to meet the demands of today, from the political operation all the way down to how the front line of public service is supported.

Potential solutions exist.  Whole new processes are available.  Inside and outside government, there are good people who aren't entrenched in the system who are ready, willing and able to work with whoever to fix the real, structural problems that are gumming up our provincial works.

But they need people on the other side willing to work with them.  And that means recognizing that being in power isn't the solution - empowering the people is.

Not by handing them fish, not by throwing them in the deep-end, but by building trust, sharing information and re-designing the process with their input, every step of the way.

We've lost our responsible government.  It's time for a peaceful revolution paving the way for an Open Government serving as a social synapse for a responsible society.

Political Parties can continue to position each other as the problem, or they can collaborate with the rest of us on the solution.  

That's their ballot question to consider.  And they will be held to account for their choices.

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