I would make a great premier of the NWT, cabinet minister, even an MLA. It’s a job that comes with respect, good pay, gold-plated pension, lots of travel and free food. You get to make big decisions and meet other important people.
Sadly, I don’t like wearing a suit to work. Debates are great, but I don’t have the patience to politely answer the same questions over and over when the person asking wants me to say something stupid in front of the legislative assembly TV cameras. Wouldn’t like it if people I don’t know stop me in the store vegetable section to tell me how to do my job better. Not fond of uninformed criticism, especially if I am sure I am doing the right thing. Tons of the stuff you have to read is written by lawyers who would rather be right than read, which is like reading Moby Dick without the whale part.
So I won’t be asking anyone to nominate me on September 2. Thank God there are people prepared to run for office, over 40 Northerners last count. That they have the courage to promote and defend their ideas in the public arena is shining hope for democracy.
A former Northern MP told me the people in the communities view the GNWT only as the boss over the water and sewer trucks. I think he meant the people had no greater expectations of the GNWT than to administer the cities, towns and hamlets, keep the roads, airports and bridges maintained, maybe build a few things and balance the books for Ottawa.
Government should be much more than that, it’s about people.
There the GNWT doesn’t have much to brag about. The education system is failing to meet the needs of half our students, addictions and homelessness are in the headlines everyday. Troubled men fill the jails while women and children suffer in a rich society indifferent to the consequences of residential school, colonialism, booze and drugs, unemployment and poverty. Our social services department tasked with helping these people gets slammed by the auditor general time and time again and seems powerless to change for the better.
Meanwhile, lady luck is running out on the jobs and wealth resource development can create. Our oil and gas is locked in the ground by low prices, diamond production is winding down as diamond prices fall, gold mine development may or may not be a mirage in the desert. That all translates into a shrinking population, moribund business community, less jobs for our children who must then look South. Not a pretty picture.
My advice to the winners in the Oct. 1 election? Harness the bureaucracy. We have over 4,000 highly paid, well-educated professionals who are either from the North or have chosen to live in the North which, in my books, makes them my kind of people. The problem is too many of them have been ground down by a bureaucracy that values accountability over results. Government workers have to be accountable to their superiors yes but politicians must send the message results are way more important. Passion and commitment must be encouraged, innovation and risk accepted. New ideas that might work instead of old ideas that don’t must be welcomed.
So candidates, when you are knocking on doors and telling people your new ideas and why you would make an excellent leader, don’t forget the government workers you need to lead to make it happen. They are our greatest resource. We need to value them, engage them, and get the best out of them. Otherwise, our territory will continue to plod along, forcing our discouraged population to look for inspiration elsewhere.