Commentary – Winning and losing the game

Jeff Burgar

The hand wringing over what went wrong isn’t quite over.

The shoulder shrugging that it doesn’t mean very much isn’t quite over.

Some people now say they got so few votes is because people hate them! Some people who topped the votes are convinced the public loves them!

In fact, they are already thinking their next run for office might be MLA. Or premier. Or maybe president of the global government. Whatever, they are walking on sunshine, convinced they are the greatest thing since the invention of pet tracking collars.

Oh, well! Our municipal elections are over. There are winners and losers. Now we are stuck with the elected people for another four years.

Oops! Did I mean to say we, the public, are now privileged to have the winning candidates serving us with good government for another four years? Possibly!

A fellow who makes a living talking and writing about what makes good government is professional consultant George Cuff. Cuff makes his home in Spruce Grove, just outside of Edmonton.

In one of his books, Cuff makes the point that every election, whether it be a byelection or the regular province-wide municipal election, results in new governments.

Unless, of course, the entire “old” government is elected, he says.

But if one, just one new face comes on board, he says this means a whole new government. The new face, or new faces, bring new ideas. The old guard looks at the newcomer or newcomers, wondering what is going on behind those baby blue eyes. Just like in a regular poker game, just one new player at the table changes the whole dynamics of the action.

Of course, there is a difference between poker and local politics. In poker, it’s every man or woman for themselves. Collusion and partnerships are not only unethical and against the spirit of the game, it’s enough to have you turfed and named a cheater.

In politics, it is quite common for so-called blocs of the council, or legislature, or parliament, to always vote together, no matter how foolish some ideas might be.

Bloc voting has led many councils to some of the worst ideas put into policy. There aren’t many examples, if any, of bloc voting leading to good policy. Good ideas can usually be sold to the rest of a council. Good ideas collect public support. Bloc ideas are usually only pushed through because the bloc can collect more votes, or might even have the power on a council. In such cases, what is good or best, or the right thing to do, becomes lost in the shuffle of “let’s push through our agenda because we can, just because we can.”

Independent thought, and sometimes, just thinking about something, period, is forgotten as an agenda of what can only be called self-service, rampant conflicts of interest, and sometimes, actual hatred is followed.

As Cuff says, for many of our councils, it’s a brand new game. For better or for worse, it’s a brand new four years. We hope for the best.

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