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October 2010
« Sep   Nov »


Is it Time for a Political Evolution?

With the upcoming municipal elections I’ve been thinking a lot about the governance that affects me. Well I guess really thinking about how little affect I have or my elected officials really have on change.

The other day I was thinking about how the system could be better, at the municipal, provincial and federal level. My thought was,

The individuals in charge of a specific portfolio should have some experience in that sector.

For instance, the Minister of Education should have worked in education, as a teacher, a principle, a professor, etc. The Minister of Justice should have worked in the legal field. The Minister of Finance should be a finance guy or gal. The Minister of Transportation should be a transportation engineer.

And this would work at the municipal level too. We need hard working technical officials to help put Toronto back together.   Sorry to pick on you Adam Giambrone, but your lack of knowledge of public transit systems has not been good for Toronto, neither was your scandal!

I’m not saying we should take away from the elected officials. We live in a democracy and should be represented by an elected official of our riding, district, area, however you want to call it at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.

What if instead of having to draw from the elected individuals as top cabinet representatives that we either elected or appointed technical representatives?

Although there maybe some drawbacks, including more officials that need to be paid a salary (could we increase the size of a riding and decrease the number of elected officials?) or lack of policy knowledge (easier to learn than technical knowledge), I think the benefits could far outweigh the disadvantages.

  • Technical Knowledge: officials would have technical knowledge of their portfolio and could provide more sound advice to the premier
  • Timely Decisions: officials could make timely decisions and not have to rely on the technical knowledge of a support staff. This could not only be a time savings but also a $ savings too (didn’t we learn enough from the EHealth scandal?)
  • Public Support: the public may have more trust in the decision made my a technical representative with a thorough understanding of the problem

Our democratic makeup has got us so far but as with everything else I think it’s time for an evolution. We need hard working, technical people to help us move forward in the 21st century. We need forward thinkers. We need officials who are not afraid of change, not afraid to push the envelope and not afraid to make a few mistakes along the way.


Comment from Ian
Time October 21, 2010 at 4:08 pm

We already have nominal ‘experts’ in each of the disciplines you list. Provincial and federal ministries have an ADM or DM who theoretically should be the expert with experience who advises the elected politician.

TTC has a GM who is an expert and advises the elected politicians on the board.

Politicians and their political parties run on their platform of policies. It’s up to the voters to decide whether those policies are rational or whether they agree with them. In order to implement that mandate from the voters, you need to have the elected politicians in ultimate authority. Otherwise, how do they do what the voters want them to do?

The alternative is to have these unelected experts with complete authority and minimal accountability. That is characteristic of dictatorships or other authoritarian governments where those in charge say “we know what’s best for you so just be quiet and enjoy what we deliver”.

What you really want to strive towards is having politicians who won’t pig-headedly stick to their plans when those trained experts under them point out serious flaws. Electing people with such open minds is also a responsibility of the voters.

Comment from Sasha
Time October 21, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Not all ADM or DM’s have the technical background either – they are advised by those below them.

I’m not calling for a dictatorship. Ideas, projects, new policies would be voted on by all the elected officials. I just don’t agree that there is enough technical knowledge at the top making informed decisions.

But maybe you’re right and that much of the change needs to come from the politicians, that they need to listen to the experts. That could allow for enough technical knowledge to migrate to the top. However, based on what we’ve seen so far the politicians aren’t listening.

Comment from Ian
Time October 22, 2010 at 8:44 am

ADMs and DMs are the bureaucratic positions and so in theory should have little reason for them not to be subject matter experts. Granted people can make it to those positions based on their administration expertise rather than technical knowledge.

When you say that ideas, projects and new policies would be voted on by all the elected officials, this is asking for more ill-informed decision making. At least presently the minister of widgets is briefed on widgets and is much more familiar with widgets than the minister of ratchets (or any other backbench elected representative). Are you suggesting we mandate going with the collective voting opinion of all elected government members or all elected members of all parties for any and all ideas, projects and new policies?

The fundamental system we have now is pretty sound. It’s just tweaking the actual practice that is needed.