The Yukon government is perhaps in the best position in all of Canada to take centre stage in the next inevitable revolution, the revolution toward skillful government.
It is in this position for two reasons.
It now has a five-year mandate to govern. Therefore it has the wonderful luxury of time, time to be creative.
And, this government governs a relatively small population endowed with enormous natural and cultural resources.
Over the course of our marvelous, long history — of humans moving from the Neolithic revolution towards, into, and now out of the urban/technological one — we have always needed our governments.
It could be assumed then — since evolution is something one normally thinks of as moving from the simple to the complex, the barbaric to the culturally polished — that our systems of government are correspondingly benign, splendidly current, and sufficiently egalitarian to see us through what lies ahead.
Not so, I am afraid.
For what lies ahead for us now is nothing short of global environmental calamity.
The crisis of global warming is real.
It threatens our very existence. It has the ability to overpower and engulf us.
Even if one accepts only the best-case scenario in terms of rising global temperatures, rising carbon emissions, and the associated cost of mitigating all of this, we are in a crisis like none other.
But is global warming the real issue here?
Of course not.
The real issue is that our current environmental crisis points to another, more fundamental one: a shortage of good government.
To state this more clearly, Canada, like every other country, is suffering from a serious political crisis with monumental ecological consequences.
And if that is not enough to guarantee you a lousy day, how about this one: the only solution to the doomsday environmental mess government has gotten us into is — hold your nose here — more government.
For a half century, at least, we have been wallowing in the notion that the only way around these disastrous ecological consequences will be through either learning more ecology, or equally futile, thinking up more technology.
Both approaches have led us right into a box canyon.
What we have failed to admit in any serious way is that neither ecology nor technology will likely heal stupid government.
The healing begins by having what the Yukon now has — political stability within a rich natural and cultural landscape.
To reap these benefits, the Fentie government would be well advised to hold an elevated conversation with itself.
In so doing, it will soon recognize the limitations of single-minded disciplined government and begin to embrace the benefits of a many-minded interdisciplinary one.
Interdisciplinary government is skilled government that continually moves beyond traditional boundaries.
In all of its dealing, skillful government always examines the tensions and relations between departments, between differing strains of thought, and between competing temperaments.
It must always be willing and capable of pushing back the boundaries of what we think government should be, in order to engage in new modes of thinking that are not in contradiction with long-established political and moral foundations.
The aim here is not to discourage departmental specialization, for often this is the most cost effective way to govern.
The aim is to safely weaken it, so that any one department does not continue to exist by feeding solely on itself.
The real goal of skillful government is to encourage and reward one department to begin a trustworthy yet unrestrained conversation with another.
Skillful government is ‘revolutionary’ government.
I do not use this term to be flamboyant or artificially confrontational. I use this term in its most artful sense, a sudden set of changes yielding a state of affairs once thought impossible.
For example, until and unless the Yukon government is willing to ask the hard questions about the economic, social and cultural difficulties we are all likely to face if we continue to drink oil reserves like peach brandy, it cannot boast of having reached any principled resource policy.
Such a policy, if it is to unfold at all, must be truly interdisciplinary. As much a part of Justice, Health and Social Services, and Environment as it is of Energy Mines and Resources.
And eventually, if we do not seriously believe our energy policies and our land-use policies are not fundamentally matters of public education, we are mistaken on what the real content of public education should be.
So I would plead with Fentie to take a risk.
If this government wishes to narrow the chances of an environmental calamity, it must first move to broaden its perspective.
It must welcome new ideas, reduce departmental specialization, and embrace interdisciplinary approaches to immediate and long-term problems.
Above all else, if this government wishes to serve as a model for all of Canada, it must recognize that the issues of war and peace, environmental quality, race and gender, climate stability, and economic well-being are not separable problems. And all are part of the public business.