Open letter to Yukon citizens and their elected representatives:
My opportunity to speak in the legislative assembly to a Liberal motion on good governance last week was denied me because the minister of Economic Development, Jim Kenyon, ran out the clock once again.
He has a history of filibustering whenever the government feels it is not in its best interests to let opposition members speak to an issue.
I was disappointed, to say the least, because I feel strongly that good governance is sorely lacking from our proceedings in the legislature. And it has been for some time.
That is one reason the Yukon New Democratic Party wants to see a comprehensive overhaul of how our legislature works.
In my opinion, one of the first things that needs to go is the provision allowing members unlimited time to speak to an issue.
Not only is this undemocratic, it is also unproductive and expensive. Kenyon used this rule to monopolize the “debate” last Wednesday. In fact, there was no debate.
But good governance also requires co-operation, collaboration, mutual respect and thoughtful exchanges of ideas and opinions.
And the opposition parties set the tone for the proceedings. If they resort to confrontation over co-operation, the members on the government side of the house will be inclined to respond in kind.
As a wise man once said, “Content without criticism is blind, but criticism without content is empty.”
Our democratic system is in crisis. People have become alienated and cynical. If you need proof, look no further than the declining voter turnouts for recent elections.
Â¥ In 2006, the voter turnout for the Yukon territorial election was the lowest in 24 years.
Â¥ In the last Whitehorse municipal election, just 4,218 people, or 37 per cent of those eligible, cast a ballot.
Â¥ About 10 million eligible voters, or about 40 per cent, did not bother to cast ballots in the last federal election.
In a recent poll asking Canadians to rank occupations by respectability, politicians were ranked second from the bottom Ã ahead of used-car salesman, but below new-car salesman. I think this is appalling.
How do we turn this around?
We need to improve our political system. Somehow, we need to make it more accountable, more transparent, more relevant, more ethical, more democratic, more accessible.
This will require Herculean effort, but it is not impossible.
We also need to find ways to work together for the greater good. This starts with recognizing that all members of the Yukon legislative assembly, regardless of their political persuasion, have something important to contribute to the process.
The government does not have a monopoly on good ideas or good intentions. So it should be more receptive to the opinions and ideas put forward by members of the opposition benches.
The members of the select committee on legislative renewal will soon be travelling the Yukon to get your input. Politics has been a big part of my life for a long time, but there is lots of room for improvement. This all-party committee will recommend ways we can work together better for your benefit.
In closing, I urge all MLAs to recognize we are at our worst when we are overly confrontational and negative. We need to focus more of our energy and time in the legislative assembly on seeking solutions, working collaboratively and criticizing constructively, if we hope to win back the public’s confidence, respect and trust.
I also urge all Yukon citizens to demand more of their elected representatives. If you don’t like what you hear and see in the legislature, if you feel excluded from and alienated by the political process, let your voice be heard.
Steve Cardiff, MLA