Friday, December 10, 2010
I don’t think of myself as an anarchist. But I admit to feeling quite buoyed by the implosion of B.C.’s two major political parties.
We’ve lived through some tempestuous political times here in B.C. It seems we routinely elect governments that we soon grow to despise. Definitely not the best way to run a province, and I do think we need to work on that.
But there’s a whole other part of the blame that lies with our political parties, which have definitely been ramping up the weirdness in the last 15 years or so. I hope this latest chaos shakes them to their roots, and wakes the rest of us up to the fact that there really are better ways to do this.
I’ve been surprised by the media reaction to the resignation of Carole James this week, much of which has portrayed the 13 dissident New Democrat MLAs as the bad guys. I certainly agree with the standard view of her as a lovely, caring woman, but that’s got little to do with whether she’s a good leader.
I had the pleasure this fall of attending a workshop put on by Ian Chisholm, a local leadership coach who always gets me reflecting on what a leader looks like. He calls it a “gift word” - a title that others give to you because you’ve earned it in their eyes.
That’s a long way from the way we use the term at the political level. Most of us in B.C. are living under the rule of “leaders” we don’t even know, let alone hold in high esteem.
In my dream world, we’d be a province governed by collectively minded independents, probably something along the lines of the citizens’ assembly pulled together by the province in 2004 to investigate electoral reform for B.C. Good people coming together for the betterment of all.
Instead, what we’ve got are two political clubs picking party leaders with no regard to what the rest of us think, who by default become our premiers if we vote that party in. No wonder so many British Columbians grow disillusioned with government leaders so quickly - it’s never us who chooses them.
That the Liberal and New Democrat parties are both muttering at the moment about the need to invoke more party discipline speaks volumes about the flaws in the leadership process. Would a real leader ever be afraid to hear what their team members had to say, or to appreciate and act on other opinions? We’re just in for more of the same if the only lesson the parties have learned from recent events is to clamp down harder.
The leaders in my life earned that designation by acting with integrity and vision, in ways that left me and anyone else they encountered feeling valued and connected. None of them were afraid to hear out their critics and act on what they learned.
So is it a surprise that many of us in B.C. feel we just don’t get the leadership we deserve? Even our political parties now seem to share that angst.
Gordon Campbell has been asking for it for ages. Rule like a king and the serfs are bound to rise up sooner or later.
Carole James losing her lustre is more recent, but things blew up quickly once dissent took hold and the yellow-scarf incident was clearly the kiss of death. I think she’s to be congratulated for recognizing that when 40 per cent of your team is openly against you, it’s time to go.
Who would we pick for leaders in B.C. if it were up to us? I don’t see why it’s such an impossible dream to get out from under the party system and get more of that happening.
Yes, B.C.’s first and only referendum on electoral reform failed in 2005, despite the great work done by the citizens’ assembly. But the chance can come again if we just keep pushing. It needs to.
At any rate, this new rebel spirit among MLAs is hopeful in the interim. If we must have parties, let’s at least have ones that encourage independent thinking, genuine representation and true leadership.
Say what you will about the old Social Credit party, I remember it fondly for its individualism compared to the authoritarian and controlling parties of today. May the winds of change blow them apart.