I guess what I saw in the legislative assembly at its opening on March 15 is a sign of the times. But I have a choice to feel defeated and accept the trends, or to speak, act and insist upon behavior in elected officials that reflects a different approach.
What I saw was rudeness to others and disrespect of the democratic process. I was appalled to see Brad Cathers and Darrell Pasloski having a little grinning conversation while Liz Hanson was speaking. I teach children and I insist that they not talk while others are talking. It’s just common courtesy.
Later I learned that this was a minor incident compared to some past actions of Yukon Party members who have done things like read the newspaper while opposition members are speaking.
I was, again, appalled when Brad Cathers repeated the same answer over and over to the varied and valid questions asked by NDP and Liberal MLAs about the Peel River plan. His tactic seemed designed to waste valuable time and to get through question period without having to engage in a meaningful exchange.
I have to think of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which took place in the United States in 1858. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas spoke stirringly and eloquently before audiences for up to seven hours at each location where the debates were held. The crowds brought lunch and stayed the whole time. You bet the two men were not reading from notes but were thinking on their feet, considering the range of issues and listening carefully to the points made by their opponent.
Here’s the sign of the times that upsets me. Some present-day governments, supposedly democracies, seem to focus on flexing political muscle, spending money for only those projects deemed important by their own parties, bad mouthing members of, or statements by, the opposition, and creating misleading, vague and sometimes inaccurate public statements to give an impression of openness where none exists.
I wish there were a Philosophy of Democratic Governance course required of anyone entering politics. The course outline would consist of the following: The Art of Listening and Responding Respectfully, The Importance of Being of Service to Your Public (and not just the ones who voted for you), The Skill of Working Collaboratively and Finding Compromise, Recognition of the Bottom Line that is Below the Financial Bottom Line (a.k.a. If you don’t have a healthy environment, you don’t need to worry about the economy because you’re dead), and Governing as Working for the Common Good Without Your Own Ego Getting in the Way.
If there are members of the legislative assembly who feel they might struggle with some or all of this course, I ask them to slow down, take a step back, think philosophically, consider the wisdom of those who push against your own values and opinions, and, for heaven’s sake, behave better in the future as you do the job that Yukoners have elected you to do.