There was a recent suggestion in our flagship publication that it is time to bring party politics to the Northwest Territories.
With due respect to the individual who brought it up, I absolutely disagree. Party politics won’t save the North — if anything it will make things worse.
Broken down, a political party is basically two things: First, it’s a brand like Coke or Pepsi people come to associate certain traits with. Consequentially, everyone “knows” conservatives are better with budgets, even though there isn’t an ounce of real world evidence to support this. Similarly, everyone “knows” the Liberal party is a more accepting and tolerant body for minorities, Justin Trudeau’s blackface photos be damned. Actual conduct of living members of the party is largely ignored.
This leads to the other fatal flaw in political parties — they’re really just dressed up cults. Members of a political party are expected to follow the will of the leader and hold to the party’s religion — sorry, I mean ideology — in the face of contrarian evidence. This creates a feeling of “us vs them” where I am always right and you are always wrong. This results in the ridiculous displays of hypocrisy that has turned the vast majority of eligible voters off of politics.
As my birth province of Alberta stumbles its way to an election this month, there are no shortage of life-long conservatives down there who will tell you how much they dislike and distrust the current Premier, Danielle Smith. But they’re all voting for her anyway. Preservation of the party itself is what has become important, not the well being of the people it claims to represent. Loyalty is the one and only virtue in party politics, everything else is just a commodity for trade.
In the United States the situation has degraded further. Democrats and Republicans now live in entirely different realities. Many on either side are convinced the “others” wants to eliminate them, enslave them or otherwise harm them. Most of this is currently saturated on the right, but world history shows the left-wing is just as capable of violence, especially if people feel they’re backed into a corner.
Even those of us who choose not to join this malarkey are still stuck with it’s handiwork. Whenever I dare to speak truth to power and criticize a decision, action or behaviour of a politician, I am inevitably accused of working for the other side. The concept I could actually be an individual human being who looks at problems on their face and can find solutions outside of an ideological box simply does not register with a lot of voters anymore. Party politics breaks human interaction down to being either “with us or against us.”
There is a lot to be desired with consensus government, but throwing Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats into the mix will only lead to more money being spent during elections. It won’t fix any of our current problems. Instead, we need greater transparency within the bureaucracy and more elected MLAs to share the workload.
Seriously — you try running three or more separate government departments at once. Unless you’re Skynet, you’re going to fail. Or you’re going to delegate tasks to others. In the GNWT’s example, that means most decisions are ultimately made by deputy ministers who never have to face voters.
A Liberal or Conservative Minister of Justice, Housing, Health, Environment and Infrastructure will do the same quality job as a non-partisan under the same workload. If we really want the GNWT to change, we need to double the population of the legislative assembly.