Friday, April 22, 2011
Grab the chance to change B.C. politics
These are glorious days for British Columbians who enjoy politics. I’m not one of them, but I admit to being just a little excited to see some life coming back to the B.C. political scene.
Politics are a lousy way to solve the real problems of the world. But they do get citizens engaged in passionate conversations. Politics ultimately push us to define what we really care about.
I certainly don’t care about Christy Clark donning a Canucks jersey or Adrian Dix tending to be tetchy and serious. So I’ll be glad when we pass through this initial phase of politicking as B.C.’s new party leaders jostle for position.
But it would be great to see some sparks flying over issues again. We haven’t seen enough of that in the last 10 years, under a government that was much too certain that it knew all the answers. Our new political leaders have a major opportunity to be out there with a fresh agenda.
And the rest of us have the opportunity to be discerning customers, if you will. Unless Quesnel MLA Bob Simpson lives the dream and bursts onto the scene with a party of independents - and Bob, I’m still with you on that one - our next premier will be either Clark or Dix. Let’s make them work for it.
Clark and Dix are proof that ideology is a poor gauge of competency, having both been active participants in previous bad governments. All political parties seem capable of self-serving, delusional and sneaky behaviour.
On the flip side, any party has the potential for great vision and accomplishment. Nothing about the New Democrat ideology rules out economic prosperity. Nothing about the B.C. Liberal platform rules out smart social policy.
So rather than waste time belabouring the usual left/right comparisons, how about Dix and Clark just skip the trite stuff and get down to the work of figuring out what B.C. needs most?
Dix obviously envisages a crankier style of Opposition than we’ve seen in recent years. But harassing Clark about her lack of substance is hardly the place to start. He needs to be out there right now with carefully considered plans if he’s serious about winning our hearts and minds.
We citizens owe it to ourselves to call the party leaders on the stupid stuff that gets passed off as political engagement. We should be relentless in pushing for more substantive discussion about the things that matter to us.
This is a critical time in B.C. Everything has been thrown for a loop on the political front in recent months, and the major parties appear to be working much harder than usual to connect with us.
There’s new blood at the top, and renewed promises on all sides to be more accountable to the people of B.C. It’s been a long time since a political leader made that promise.
So it’d be crazy to let this moment end up as just more hot air from the election machine as to who loves business, unions, families or poor people more. This is the time for British Columbians to be writing the letters and asking for the meetings, and working our own spheres of influence as a reminder to the leaders that every one of us can flex political muscle when we need to.
Surely we’ve had enough of the knee-jerk cliches of Liberals as right-wing business boosters and the NDP as tax-happy union lovers. As we know after decades of up-and-down political fortunes in B.C., we need a little bit of all of it to make a happy, healthy province. Nobody’s got a lock on the One True Way.
Yes, the unions developed an unhealthy sense of entitlement under the New Democrats. But privatization under the Liberals ceded B.C. services to big multinationals at a significant price to jobs, wages and service quality.
And yes, the NDP did show disregard for the business community and the economy. But the Liberals cut social programs well past the point of smart governance. Neither can claim the moral high ground, that’s for sure.
I’d like to hear more assurances from Dix and Clark that they’ll get back to treating the province’s 85 MLAs like the community resources they are. How nutty is it for political leaders to intimidate and silence the very people who keep them in touch with the real issues facing B.C. communities?
Get real and go deep, candidates. Enough time wasted in the shallow end.