It is a peculiar thing we do in the democratic world. We elect to our highest positions of power everyday people like you and me – neighbours, friends and foes alike. Further, these brave individuals step forward, put their neck out, ride a wave of popular sentiment and praise all the way to office, only to have the honeymoon dashed within weeks by angry complaints from the very people who anointed them to run in the first place. Why do we do this? Why do we leave our political power in the hands of an emotional roller coaster and poorly paid quasi-volunteers?
Well, the truth is that for some weird reason, it seems to work better than dictatorship, technocracy or monarchy. But I believe there is another element to how our democracy works, one that we tend to take for granted. The mayor’s office is the highest position of power in our local jurisdiction, but in reality, his Advisors are better-paid, better-educated, and more accountable than he or she is. It is a duopoly that is both annoying and necessary to those trying to ‘just get stuff done’. We have laws, and more laws, and layers of laws upon those laws. Each law designed to check and balance the human flaws that can lead to power being abused and good intentions actually bringing a poor result. So just who is best-suited to be mayors and councillors? Business acumen? Community volunteers? Charisma? Intelligence? Integrity?
I will first lay out why I am writing this letter. I was approached by dozens of individuals asking me to run for office this election. After informing them that there was no way I could even if I wanted to, they all asked “why”, and then, “so who will you be voting for?” My answer is as follows. It is no secret that I am heavily involved in the conceiving, proposing, facilitating, and now construction of what has become known locally as Valemount Glacier Destinations, or ‘the big resort’. In truth, I was involved in this dream long before 2010; it started when I was 15 years old and, along with a few buddies, cut the trail into what is now know as Mount Trudeau. It is my opinion that who is in office during the future term will have almost zero affect on whether or not the resort comes to be. It is already in the realm of provincial and federal bureaucrats and lawmakers. Having studied international history and economics, and travelled a fair bit, it was this perception of inevitability that brought me back to Valemount in the first place. This is literally the best place in the world to put such a resort. My original sales pitch to the bigger players outside of the valley was so easy I wondered how it had not been successfully made before.
But why not run for office myself and help speed it along? The truth is there is nothing I could do from within local government to help this project. Matter of fact, it is far better for me to not be tied down with local government, and instead continue acting in the facilitating and liaison roles I am currently filling.
So surely I am hoping for a ‘business-minded’ government for the next term? Actually, not necessary. The political term ‘business-minded’ is so abused it sickens me. Most often what people mean when they say ‘I am business-minded’ is actually ‘I am business-friendly’. The two are not the same. If someone is ‘business-minded’ it is my experience that they place ‘business’ or ‘return and profit’ as their primary value and objective in life. This culture of venerating the ‘business-mindset’ is especially prevalent on the right of the political spectrum. In reality, more often than not many political individuals are simply ‘business-friendly’, or would gladly roll over and let the big boys do whatever they want, just out of the vain hope that there will be some economic job creation, no matter how short-lived, or that their real estate will appreciate a few percentile. To put it into perspective, if anybody is elected to office in Valemount, and they pledge to be business-minded, the first thing they will do is close the local indoor ice arena. There is absolutely no business case for keeping this facility open since the cost to user ration is literally insane! But rest assured, any “business-minded” politician will shrug away from daring to touch this most holy of Canadian religions. In the end, it is all political pandering, we elect people who represent our values, then we make the numbers and money fit how we please.
So who exactly did I vote for on November 5th and who do I endorse? I look forward to working with any of the candidates who stepped forward and are on the ballot. I respect them all. Who I voted for were the individuals whom I felt could devote the most amount of time to their term in office. The next four years are going to make everybody’s head spin. Things are already happening, and they are going to speed up at a dizzying pace. There will be no room for BS’ing in the coming term, if anybody did not read the package, every week, thoroughly, completely and referenced, they will be more of a liability and deadweight loss to our local government than an asset. No level of ‘business-mindedness’, ‘experience’, ‘intelligence’ etc. can replace the need to put in the time. And not even trying to capitalize on past time put in, real time now in the present, looking forward. We are in build mode not capitalize mode, no room for someone wanting to rest on their laurels.
I am not afraid of a ‘socially-minded’ individual on council. In my experience, such individuals are extremely useful in government because they tend to listen on the streets far better than the ‘business-minded’ aspiring leaders. We need diversity on council. We need views from across the demographic spectrum from the business leaders, to the fixed-income and back to the youth. For big developments, taking the time to learn about and work with ALL locals can seem like a headache, but once achieved, social buy-in creates far better projects with less resentment and opposition. As stated before, big developments are coming to this valley, all that we can do locally is try to position ourselves to benefit from them, and not just for 6 months of construction boom, but permanent, multi-generational legacies. Those who read, listen, research and devote their next 4 years to office will ensure Valemount becomes the vibrant paradise we all know it can be. Who will help build and maintain a positive relationship with our local First Nations neighbours? Pretending that they do not matter will only lead to Valemount’s demise. There will be no vacation time, no time for side-projects. The next 4 years are full-steam ahead. We need a professional government ready to look forward, and trying to chart the best path for the local people they represent. We need ideas, reflection, conversation and consultation back to the electorate, and then action. This is why I did not run for local office this time around, and these are the criteria with which I voted. Good luck to all.