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Time for voters to be calm and assertive

Dear Uma: I know I am constantly swearing off politics and just as constantly end up paying attention again, kind of like my relationship with martinis and junk food.

Dear Uma:

I know I am constantly swearing off politics and just as constantly end up paying attention again, kind of like my relationship with martinis and junk food.

It is hard to stay away when politics are everywhere these days with federal, territorial and municipal elections looming.

The immediate and noticeable thing about looming elections is all the dollars that get spent.

Watson Lake is having soil reclaimed at the airport. The “good soil” is being piled in a field and the “bad soil” is being taken through a locked gate leading into the bush. What happens to it then is not visible, though we are assured it is undergoing reclamation. Perhaps by a generous sprinkling of holy water? A chanted mantra?

There is seniors’ housing underway, a complex that will provide the growing number of senior citizens in Watson Lake with a place to live out their days. The site is a melding of convenience and attractiveness; the residents will be able to conveniently pick up their prescriptions in the nearby clinic which will render them able to enjoy a walk in the attractive Wye Lake Park across the road from their new home. The grocery store is also a short distance, as is the post office and the bank.

Housing for women fleeing abusive relationships is being constructed. The shelter has a finite time for a woman in crisis to be sheltered; the new apartments will give women more time to sort out their lives while it is hoped the availability of counsellors and child care will make permanent changes more likely.

The Robert Campbell Highway is having more work done, and I believe I have seen fresh paint on various government buildings.

There’s been a rash of hirings in the last while, too; those lovely jobs (peculiar to the Canadian North?) where one seems not to have to do anything. Often it seems one doesn’t even have to know how to do anything job-related. Appearance at the job site does not seem to be mandatory; political correctness, however, most definitely is.

The former minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Brad Cathers, resigned and Premier Dennis Fentie, typically, is not about to acknowledge that this makes a whit of difference as he continues to do “what he was elected to do.”

I wonder if there is time before any of the elections to take the excellent and creative advice of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer.

Watching TV one night, I happened upon a documentary of this talented man and was instantly struck by the possible applications of his training methods to creatures other than canines.

His means of training dogs sounds ideal for training politicians. The problems are remarkably similar: our politicians behave erratically and often work against our interests. They appear not to hear us when we yell at them. It’s frustrating and it makes us angry.

Millan says a dog’s behaviour is a reflection of its owner’s energy. Too true, it’s not hard to translate a politician’s behaviour as a reflection of his/her voters.

Voters need to take on the responsibility for their politicians and their behaviour by, first, becoming calm and then reminding themselves and their politicians that it is the voters who are in charge.

There is no point in going to meetings and yelling at the politicians. While it may intimidate some, most of them will feed off the angry energy and become more frantic, barking and calling anyone who disagrees with them a racist, or the more colourful epithets allegedly employed by our premier.

We need to use calm, assertive energy and say, for example, in a firm voice, “No, you cannot pass that legislation without reading it first.”

They will resist and probably will need to hear the messages numerous times, which can be a challenge, but will be necessary in order to achieve the desired change in behaviour.

Politicians, like dogs, need to know what is expected of them and they need rules, limitations, boundaries. They need consistent, calm, forceful reminders of those rules. They will test them constantly; voters must be ever vigilant.

Millan recommends exercise, discipline and affection in the training of dogs; these ideas translate beautifully into the training of politicians.

They need to be assigned a real task, something that will make them feel fulfilled and keep them occupied.

Instead of being allowed to run around in circles taking care of their special interests, we need to assign them the sort of work they were intended for, such as taking care of the expressed interests of the voters. The voters in Yukon, like voters everywhere, would like good health care, a decent education for their children, and a clean and protected land in which to live.

If politicians are kept busy with these real jobs, they won’t have the energy left to meddle with things outside their mandates and pass bills full of pork.

The trouble with too many of our Yukon politicians is that they are known personally by the voters, and the tendency is to forgo any discipline in favour of instant affection.

Like dogs, politicians should only be given praise and affection when they have earned it.

What do you think, Uma? You have trained dogs, horses, a husband and two children; would Millan’s advice work if applied to the training of politicians? It seems to me it could, and it appears to be a humane and kind way of altering their behaviours.

There are other schools of training, and I have read a bit on some of them when I was researching such things.

Neutering is always recommended, especially when there are no plans to breed, and I think we could safely say such is the case with politicians. Having identified serious faults, a reputable person would not dream of playing a role in propagating those characteristics and then selling them to an unsuspecting public. Hence, we could argue for any training program necessitating neutering.

A popular method for establishing dominance was the grabbing of the animal by its neck scruff and holding it to the ground. Tempting, but bound to create bad feelings. There would be far too many voters willing to administer this training, which would lead to ridiculously high dry cleaning costs paid with tax monies as well as the possibility of minor injury.

Muzzling has been successful, but in the case of training a politician, it would be self-defeating. We need to hear the bark, the whimper, the

howl, the growl, to determine what our politician is planning. Unlike his canine counterparts who pee on posts and raise their hackles, it is with his voice the politician marks his territory and declares his intentions.

It is for these same reasons the electronic collar cannot be effective, though again the temptation is strong.

No, Millan’s methods seem to be the best suited for the crossover from dog training to the training of politicians.

Now we need to set up some weekend workshops for the voting public, getting them well-versed in these methods in time for the next round.



Heather Bennett is a freelance writer who lives in Watson Lake.