Bring back consensus
As the territorial election drew nearer, I remained in a quandary as to where to cast my ballot.
Should I have voted for the person or the party?
Should I have voted strategically in an attempt to stop a candidate from getting elected?
Should I have spoiled my ballot, not being highly impressed with any of the offerings in my riding?
Ultimately, I think my indecision stemmed from the fact that I don’t believe party politics works in the Yukon.
As a small jurisdiction, it is hard enough to find people to put their names forward come election time.
To have an excellent candidate not get elected because of the party he or she represents, or to lose an experienced and effective MLA because of his/her party affiliation hurts us all.
In party politics, the best ideas are usually never acted upon if they come from a non-government member or party.
A lot of time is wasted on partisan intransigence and grandstanding, rather than focusing on strong leadership and wise decision-making.
I wasn’t around the Yukon in the 1970s when party politics came to the territory. I don’t know all the arguments made to move away from the consensus government system that existed in the territory from 1902 until 1978.
But I have lived in the Eastern Arctic, where the consensus model continues to be used today. And while no system is perfect, this one makes a lot of sense to me.
The residents are entitled to run for office and elect MLAs on an individual rather than a party basis.
Following a general election, MLAs select a premier among themselves. Ministers are chosen and the premier assigns portfolios.
Government priorities are established among the ministers with input from members, based on issues identified in the election.
A consensus government still requires a majority of support for the measures proposed.
Ministers and the premier are required to consistently account and respond to members’ and constituents’ concerns as they work through the legislative processes.
The system is a blend of parliamentary democracy and aboriginal values of co-operation, effective use of leadership resources and common accountability.
In my mind, I think it’s worth a second look.
Volunteers strengthen community
In the Yukon, 52 per cent of us formally volunteer for everything from sport and recreation, arts and culture, health and emergency services, justice and crime prevention, environmental groups, to supporting the campaigns of political candidates.
If national statistical surveys had the capacity to measure everything that every Yukoner contributes, they would probably find that number to be a lot higher.
Since its inception in April of 2002, the Yukon Volunteer Bureau has been working hard to support those volunteers; and the important contributions they make to our way of life in the territory.
It has done this by providing training and resources on board development, volunteer management, and organizational management, and by connecting volunteers to opportunities to give their time.
Most importantly, the Yukon Volunteer Bureau has become a strong voice in representing the importance of volunteers to achieving every goal from crime prevention to economic development in our territory.
The volunteer board’s success over the last four years is due largely to long-term support from the department of Community Services, the department of Economic Development’s Community Development Fund, the staff at city of Whitehorse leisure services branch, and the numerous individuals who have volunteered their talent and energy.
Another major success factor was becoming the host of the Yukon local network for the Canada Volunteerism Initiative in February of 2003.
In the Yukon, the network supports the continued delivery of YVB training and resources to organizations across the territory; though it focuses on the importance of recognizing and celebrating volunteers.
It felt recognition was important so that instead of constantly trying to find new volunteers, organizations could create better and longer relationships with those who already gave their time.
In 2004, 300 individuals were recognized for their efforts. In 2006, more than 71 organizations in every community formally recognized more than 3500 volunteers. The momentum is obviously building.
On September 25th, Ottawa eliminated funding for the CVI. The CVI was cut as a “non-core program” — a program that doesn’t meet “the priorities of the federal government or of Canadians.”
This surely cannot mean that the federal government places no value on Canadians being involved in their communities.
We hope it simply means the government has a better plan for how they will invest in volunteerism.
Here is the problem: we have not heard anything about what this plan might be.
Volunteering happens all across the country, and civic engagement is part of what it means to be Canadian. This is why federal support is so important.
In the Yukon, our ability to connect with similar networks across Canada has been greatly assisted by CVI over the last three years.
These connections have helped us share information and strategies for involving volunteers; allowing non-profit organizations to better deliver what society expects of them.
Together, we have produced a range of nationally and regionally relevant resources, developed systems of support and formed important partnerships; this work has resulted in greater individual engagement in the Yukon and in Canada.
In short, we are supporting volunteers, and giving them the tools they need to help make Canada a better place to live.
Ottawa has the opportunity to develop a new way to support the engagement of Canadians in their communities — of volunteering and volunteerism.
Nationally, CVI is urging them to begin discussions as soon as possible if the momentum is to continue to build; if all of the work done over the last three years in the Yukon is not to be lost (is that really efficiency?).
Larry Bagnell is speaking strongly in Ottawa on behalf of Yukon volunteers.
We can support his efforts by calling e-mailing his office at firstname.lastname@example.org and letting him know that we believe support for volunteers and voluntary organizations is important — no, critical — to sustaining our way of life in the Yukon and in Canada.
We also have a unique opportunity in the territory right now with the elections going on.
No matter what the platform goals, you can be sure that volunteers are eventually called upon to do the ‘on-the-ground’ work to achieve political goals.
As a community of passionate volunteers, we must ensure that we ask all candidates how they would support the valuable work we do as volunteers in this territory, as well as the sustainability of the more than 600 groups and associations we give our time to.
This municipal election, vote for the value of volunteers.
Tracy Erman, executive director, Yukon Volunteer Bureau, Whitehorse