Peace, Order and Good Government

FIRST HALF

The phrase ‘peace, order and good government’, a technical component of the Constitution Act, has meaning beyond my understanding; stuff of parliament, provincial vs. federal powers, taxation, etc. The cultural principles of POGG however make sense to me. I firmly identify with it as a Canadian and I suspect most everyone else does too. It’s really who we are as citizens.

Strangely, I thought of this with about 2:00 minutes left in the CFL version of the Battle of Alberta, Eskimos vs. Stampeders. A redux of the same battle from last weekend, an important game for both teams as first place is within the grasp of each. Absorbing the sunshine and a few cold beers, I was with my family and friends, sharing a gorgeous Saturday evening with 41,000 fellow Albertans.

At the exact same time, just one train stop down the LRT line, another Battle of Alberta (a PC party optimist would argue Battle FOR Alberta) had come to a close.

The leader of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta and our new Premier was elected by a group of members smaller than half of the football fans at Commonwealth Stadium. The announcement witnessed at the Expo Centre, by an even smaller group, no more than the first 20 rows of fans seated in our Section X. Also, interestingly, a new Premier for the Province and nary a word from the football game announcer. A smart move by the team, as the Eskimos could ill-afford a misdirected chorus of boos from a cynical citizenry. Even at the PC Convention, the room was reportedly subdued. No raucous after-parties were advertised, the Prentice team avoided the typical hubris of this type of victory; as if everyone knew, “tonight proves nothing”.

I couldn’t help but feel torn. I wanted to be there to hear the outcome, feel the room and assess the character of a Premier who says he is committed to changing how a 43 year-old government, well, governs. But, the Battle of Alberta was still within reach of my beloved Eskimos so I stayed and enjoyed the end of the game .… joining the clear majority of Albertans, at least at that moment, not caring about politics.

INTERMISSION

I have questioned myself a great deal lately, wondering (wandering?) for a political home. It’s unlike me to avoid a fight for something and I have searched for answers politically, nearly my entire life. I believe in the systems and science of good government and know that we are lucky to have, in democracy, the best of a bad lot. I don’t take it for granted and yet I have chosen the partisan sidelines. I need to unpack that, and I can only start by letting some thoughts flow freely:

I am convinced that Alberta is basically drowning in ‘Peace, Order and PROSPERITY’. Prosperity, to many, is a good enough substitute for good government; ignoring that for short periods of time, it can be had with or without good government. A stroke of luck, like high priced oil, can also mask a lot of bad government. Of course we may ignore the actual problems created by prosperity: a damaged environment, economic stragglers, or the risk from lacking economic diversity. But, if $150,000 50/50 draw prizes are any indication, we are basically inclined to sit fat, dumb and happy when presented the opportunity. Me included.

I also believe that normal citizens care little for politics and only concern themselves with outcomes (see above); and as long as things are moving along swimmingly, we can ignore the responsibility of having to stay informed or getting involved with politics. This became obvious as I spent a few years of my life trying to help build a new political party with the Alberta Party. Thankless work to say the least, many would argue a complete waste of time.

Finally, I am convinced that many of those who do choose partisan politics, think they can remedy a declining interest in citizen politics with a raised, shrill voice. Attacking and mauling any idea, good or bad, that is not theirs. Crafting ridiculous spin to ridiculous issues, made up for selfish partisan reasons only. A cause and effect, leading to smaller parties and even more cynical citizens. Definitely making it harder for the good ones, fighting the good fight. (This is where many on Twitter have devolved for anyone who follows the #ableg hashtag)

SECOND HALF

I am ready to get back in the game of democracy; if not on the field, maybe as a simple commentator, maybe as a coach, definitely as a fan. As a taxpayer I have certainly bought my ticket and I am going to get my money’s worth.

But in an Alberta context, what is one to do? There are as many opportunities to get involved, as there are bad sport analogies. We must also be honest with ourselves and accept that over the next two years, a Jim Prentice government will reveal it’s ability to provide us good government or it will not. As an Albertan first, I am never going to undermine those efforts. Well beyond that, I am going to hope and trust that it can be done. Mr. Prentice is a very accomplished public servant who had little to gain personally taking on this rotten task – so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he will reveal his plan and implement many changes to a positive effect.

Also, since I am mostly concerned about the Good Government leg of the tripartite motto mentioned above, (it’s the one we as citizens have the most direct control), it would seem this is the best place to focus one’s efforts. It’s time to support a real effort in reforming the way the government functions. We should be pushing our ideas on transparency, citizen engagement, and good policy. We should admonish the government if they stray from this. But this is our government today, is our home team, like it or not.

Many of my partisan friends will mock this as blind faith in a team that has lost its moral authority to govern, or that “past performance indicates future results”. It may be and they might; but I am going to join the majority of Albertans and eschew the partisan rhetoric.

Good luck Mr. Prentice. Don’t forget that you are playing the game FOR us Albertans. We are your team, not the PC Party.

Go Alberta Go!

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