Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why I hate politics

Today there is an article in the Globe about Michael Burns and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. It looks like Michael Burns was appointed as chair of AECL for purely partisan reasons, and in a similar fashion to Michael Brown of FEMA fame, was probably not the most appropriate choice for this position.

No political party that has been in power in Canada has not committed this error to one degree or another. The question I ask, is why are there so often people appointed to important positions in government that are not qualified to be there, and what can we do about it.

Why - During an election, those wishing to get elected have to build a team of volunteers and staff to run the campaign. The politicians are truly in the hands of those working on your campaign, and so you have to trust those in important campaign positions. If the politician is elected and forms government, they are now in the hands of the public service. The politicians rely on the public service to get the things done that they were elected to do. So what do the politicians do? They get rid of the people the people they don't trust, and hire the people that helped them win, people they already trust.

So what is the outcome? Every time we change governments, we end up with a bunch of people in key positions that are really not qualified to be in those positions. While these people may be great people, they are put in over their heads until they can learn how to fill the role properly. As citizens we like to ignore this learning processes unless it is a key position that really needs to have a qualified person, such as Chair of the Bank of Canada, or Chair of AECL.

So what do we do about it? I'm not sure there is much we can do about, outside of getting involved. This is what I have done. I'm not willing to let some dough heads make the important decisions for our riding. I am supporting a party I believe has the right values, and will do everything within my capability to make sure they don't commit the same patronage mistakes that seem to plague our governmental system.

If anyone has a better idea on how to fix the system, please let me know.

1 comment:

WesternGrit said...

My comments apply to political staffers (Hill staff). I'm not addressing appointments to bodies such as AECL. When hiring for such external agencies, qualified people should be chosen.

When it comes to hill staff, constituency offices, or heads of crowns, I think that the wise/prudent MPs still hire solid performers. I personally know Liberal MPs who hired former PC staffers in 1993. If you're smart you will hire the best person for the job.

We need to keep in mind that the nature of the role is quite political. While that does not mean the positions are to be used to only assist "partisan" constituents, etc., what I do mean is that someone who is loyal to another party can and will divulge secrets to friends who they shouldn't. 9 times out of 10 you need someone loyal to your persuasion when trusting staffers with political secrets. These secrets can often be life-impacting (for example a cabinet decision to go to war falls into the hands of the opposition - who may leak it to media, etc., possibly endangering lives).

While some degree of partisanship is required here, objectivity is everyone's friend: you don't want to hire a dullard, when you should have the best, most politically savvy installed in these roles.