Politicians of Convenience

When a political party which has been in power for more than four consecutive decades begins to unravel, there are bound to be many different issues that arise.

In the more than four years I have lived in Sherwood Park, I have become acquainted with the local political scene and have been able to observe the unraveling from a specific point of view.

What I have discovered locally goes much further than just the Progressive Conservatives.  There is what I can only call the Strathcona Cabal: a group of people working together to advance their careers.

These folks have been involved at every level of politics, and members of this cabal have run for office at every level from civic all the way up to federal.  It seems the focus isn’t necessarily to align with a specific party, represent the voting public, or even prescribe to an ideology, but to use whatever vehicle is deemed best to advance ones career.

Simply put, this group puts individual aspirations ahead of what’s best for the citizens of Strathcona County.  It is a group of politicians of convenience.

I discovered the cabal before last fall’s civic elections and worked behind the scenes to try to rid County Hall of these self-serving candidates, and was successful save a few left-overs who managed to keep their seats.  To anyone paying attention, the remnants on Council stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

The Strathcona Cabal has been involved with the local Wildrose party as well.  It doesn’t take long in conversation to wonder if some of these ‘rabid Wildrosers’ have any clue as to party policy.  I’ve heard that a past party member even claimed he wasn’t actually conservative, but that the Wildrose represented the best option of getting elected.

Now with the federal boundaries changing and a new constituency being created, the scramble is on for those seeking the federal Conservative nomination and the cabal is represented here as well.

To the citizens of Strathcona County I say be aware.  While every politician must possess a certain amount of ambition and drive, the folks in the Cabal show little to no interest in actually serving the community.  They seem only interested in serving their own interests.

And to the members of the self-serving Strathcona Cabal: you know who you are.  I know who you are.  And I will continue to do everything I can to eliminate your influence on local politics.

The citizens of Strathcona County deserve as much.


Steve Ricketts said...

Good article, Leigh!

I was recently thinking about this issue, from a slightly different angle. My beef is with how the CPC party has been operating. (I’m sure other parties do this too, but I think the CPC has elevated the practice to a new art form).

We’re seeing the development of a career path for people in politics that is directly tied to their lifelong involvement in a party. People are getting engaged in a political party at a young age… they volunteer their time and effort in a local riding, supporting a candidate or MLA/MP. This is fine, but it continues on. Some of these people get paid stints, such as in the PMO, where they learn the inner workings of the government.

They then get positions in companies that do public or policy research, or do advocacy work… this includes the National Citizens Coalition, Canadian Taxpayers Association, Fraser Institute… and many research companies which, strangely (or conveniently) enough, have close ties to their party; i.e. they either do research for them, or are owned and operated by former politicians.

These well-meaning and ambitious people end up with a lot of experience in knowing how government works, and how to get (and stay) elected, but with not much experience in other areas. To abuse an old phrase, their experience is an inch wide and a mile deep. They establish connections, demonstrate their loyalty to the party, and in turn they get the party’s support for the next step in their career. They then look for an opportunity to run for the party, whether as a municipal councillor, MLA or MP.

That’s how we end up with MPs and people in positions of influence such as Jason Kenney (background: Alberta Taxpayers Association), Stockwell Day, even Stephen Harper. And also, unfortunately, people such as also Rob Anders, Pierre Poilievre, Dimitri Soudas. They have not have jobs outside of the political realm.

I do not like it at all. For my MLA and MP, I want people with a long professional background and résumé (in a variety of areas), volunteer experience, etc. and who enter politics for a period to contribute.


David Bertram said...

Leigh and Steve both of you have excellent analysis and insight. Voters need to take the time and effort to pay attention to the political process otherwise they tend to vote for parties who promise to give them what they want. It's almost like school councils were often times personal popularity reigns. I have run for office once in my life so far, when no real serious challenger would come forward to challenge then Mayor of Calgary Dave Bronconnier in 2007. I had been invloved in politics since grade 10 (1976) behind the scenes as an unpaid volunteer /constituency association board member, polling worker etc.

I have had the pleasure of meeting quite a few individuals who have run for nominations, been candidates on the actual election ballots, to Premiers and the current Prime Minister. I have to be honest that most who come forward to run are honest, decent souls who have laudible intentions but once elected often times find out that power corrupts. The lobbyists show up and offer the resources and contacts to help get re-elected or fend off challengers. That's the achilles heal of all of this. it takes an individual with amazing Faith or internal fortitude to tell these folks "not for sale here". It comes down to integrity. That is why a candidate's background is so important. It is not what you say or promise, it is what you have done. Actions do speak louder than words! Always been true, always will be true!

His Name Was Steven