Proud to be political

Post by Mike Klassen in

16 comments

polling-booth
Voters in training – is media cynicism undermining our faith in politics?

Today, too many of us curse at the thought of politics. During the last Provincial election we saw a precipitous ten percent drop in voter turnout from four years earlier. Young people are staying away from politics in droves. Media rarely if ever compliment people in public life for real acts of leadership.

How did we get here? How is it that people who engage in politics as volunteers are not only rare, but are looked upon with suspicion by the media? I've watched this happen over time, where being "politically active" has become a pejorative for many. Perhaps we should ask, if we don't have people engaged in politics, then what?

As you can imagine, I take a more favourable view of political involvement. To me being active in politics, like any form of community volunteerism, is a higher calling. I salute everyone who gives their time as a volunteer. May Brown, for example, even at 90-years old is a great example of that volunteer spirit, and yet she remains steadfastly political.

Besides my considerable time commitment to CityCaucus.com, I'm doing a lot of media for which I rarely get compensated. Still, I relish the opportunity to speak publicly on so many issues. I'm extremely pleased to be a part of the weekly discussion that takes place on the Bill Good Show on CKNW. My colleague Daniel set the bar high during his 18 months there, and I can only hope that my contributions measure up against the collective experience of Bill, and fellow panelists Jim Green and Frances Bula.

I've been invited to comment often on Canada's largest local newscast, GlobalTV's News Hour. Once again, it's very gratifying that I can be a part of such a successful broadcast as that. I contribute a column at 24 Hours Vancouver – Metro Vancouver's third largest daily – every 2 weeks for which I receive a modest payment. I've been welcomed at Shore 104FM to provide a lighthearted weekly political commentary, and I salute them for experimenting with this feature in a time when mainstream radio has become extremely predictable. I've also enjoyed working with CBC Early Edition, as well as CTV and CBC TV over the past year, and contributing to the Vancouver Sun's op/ed page.

I do all this because of my respect for politics, which I think is perhaps the best tool we have to ensure a civil society. I've worked on political campaigns since I was in high school. In my lifetime I've made phone calls, stuffed envelopes and knocked on doors for countless political candidates of many stripes. I'm an unabashed political partisan, and a card-carrying member of the BC Liberal Party and the NPA.

Apparently for some people, this is supposed to be news.

The Vancouver Courier's Naiobh O'Connor decided to profile me in the local bi-weekly. It wouldn't be the first time the Courier has made a point of noting my political pedigree, and I'm always flattered by the attention. As they say, it's all good as long as they spell your name right.

During last year's Provincial election I attended a campaign whistle stop for Premier Campbell and happened to be standing along the procession as he entered the room. The Vancouver Sun snapped me shaking Campbell's hand, which Mike Howell saw fit to mention in his 12th & Cambie column. (By the way, Mike, it was nice to meet you for the first time ever at last night's NPA meeting).

I sure hope you might see me at a BC Liberal event. I ran the Hon. Colin Hansen's election campaign – twice. Last year we topped the polls with the widest margin of victory in the Province, which is what often happens when you've got a quality candidate.

My history with former Mayor Sam Sullivan shouldn't be too much of a revelation either. I've backed Sam ever since we worked together on the Knowards campaign in the summer of 2004. That campaign to me is still an amazing feat – our small team turned 75% approval for wards into 46% in four months and won the referendum with 54% of the vote. During his time as mayor I did piecemeal communications work – web, email & video – with his office.

I may enjoy politics, but doesn't preclude me from being an engaged parent and member of a school PAC. I'm very familiar with the issues around low enrollment, and have never been shy about my opinions of the present School Board. What's at stake for my community if a school closes is why I attended the VSB's budget meeting last week. To my surprise, you could almost count the parents in attendance on one hand. They were greatly outnumbered by NDP MLAs (past and present) and union representatives.

It was an important meeting and there was a LOT of media there. There was plenty of opportunity for parents to express their views, but apparently I was the only one on hand affected by the possible closures. I told it like I saw it – which you've read here before. In my opinion, the present Vancouver School Board is advocating at the expense of the reputation of Vancouver schools, and closures might provide much-needed critical mass for communities.

Does my political support of the BC Liberals affect my viewpoint of the schools issue? It certainly has forced me to look more closely at the causes behind the current spat between the Trustees and the Minister, but it's barely enough of a motive to get me to drag my butt out after dinner to a School Board meeting. I can think of much better ways to use my spare time than to listen to Vision/COPE Trustees pontificate.

Whereas Ian Baillie, Vision Vancouver Executive Director, was sitting in the audience. And so was CUPE's Paul Faoro. Those guys get paid to be there. I should be so lucky.

It may be hard for some in the media to fathom that there are those of us are proud to be active in politics as well as serving our communities. If a reporter decides to connect the dots on my political past next time, I would happily welcome a phone call to discuss it. I'd love to make the case for why more of us should become engaged in politics.

- post by Mike

16 Comments

I don't blame you, per se, for being identified as a "parent" and not as "parent, Sam Sullivan's former webmaster, and Colin Hansen's campaign manager".

I think the blame is 99% with Global. They know who you are.

Still, you could saved yourself the headache, if you had insisted...

Always great taking advice from someone who hides behind a pseudonym.

Red herring - arguments stand and fall on their own, regardless of the pen name.

Note, I was excusing your own personal responsibility. Am I mistaken in that, or did you request that Global excise your background?

As an aside, the American founding fathers also wrote under pseudonyms. Not, absolutely not, am I comparing myself to them. Merely pointing out pseudonyms have a time honoured precedent. And besides, I've left my email address with you to make this comment, so you know my real name, as you always have.

I'm a responsible commenter, Mike. You know that, I know that. Go to town on the trolls.

Political volunteers are certainly not treated like volunteers in any other organization. When I tell people I volunteer in the arts, I do not receive a backlash from sports, health or other organizations that depend on volunteers. But as soon as conversation involves politics, I really have to think twice before I reveal which political organizations I have volunteered for.

The atmosphere that polarizes our politics probably has a lot to do with the suspicion of anyone actively involving themselves, for free, in civic governance and I sincerely wish that could change. I myself love it when I meet someone new, someone from the opposite spectrum of my politics who I can have an honest discussion of values and can see that I am not out to tax them to death, rob them blind, socially engineer them or pave over all the green spaces.

My particular concern is getting our youth more active in politics. They need to be heard and need to know that the current adversarial way of conducting the city, province and nation's business does not bode well for them or for us. In fact if they continue to stay uninvolved and not vote, then they really do end up with the government they deserve, governments that cater to the interests that vote for them rather than everybody.

btw - Mike, our politicians, trustees and councillors could do worse than to follow your example of transparency. And why should your political history preclude your public advocacy as a parent. Why shouldnt your input be just as valued as input from the other "expert" stakeholders such as the BCTF or CUPE when it comes to public education?

Maybe if we could guarantee open-minded discussions with respect, more of us would get involved, or at the very least know the value of voting.

I appreciate your comments Mike, but the problem you have is two fold:

1) You and Daniel positioned this blog as a "news source." I was appropriately critical of both of you when you started because I thought the then biting attacks against Gregor were superfluous. Over time, you tempered your attacking his jugular and he certainly has proved himself worthy of having you (and me) and anyone fair minded attacking him and Vision for the garbage government they have offered. But to be a partisan is NOT something that lends itself well with being a pundit--not a respected one, certainly not over time. Your relationship with Global is well known. I, too, enjoy working with them, but I have NEVER traded off political connections in the (long) past to get there. My stories run as opinion pieces, but they did when I was, IMO, for good reason, battering Sam for his indiscretions.
You cannot be a respected pundit and carry political membership cards or attend AGMs and participate. Straddling the two sides is incongruent with respected political observer status.

2) You need to either stop this blog and say that you are running in the next municipal election, or announce that you are not, and continue with your very good work. Otherwise, everything you and Daniel have written in the last couple of years will look like self-serving hackery. In that sense, Jonathan Ross is a paid hack, so that's the lowest form of opinion that one can offer. But using a "news source" one has created as a springboard for a political career is only one step above.

With great respect, instead of spending your time reinforcing what many of us know--that you are a great Dad and terrific family man; an articulate commentator and caring citizen, be either a political partisan or a respected commentator--but you cannot do both--not for very long.

Even though I often disagree with her Frances' blog is pure in this sense--so is mine, so is Oberfeld's. We have our own political stripes and opinions, but we don't get paid to bump for one party over another and we do not engage in partisan political work.

Mike Howell treated you now differently than how Charlie Smith treated me when I broke the Ark Tsisserev story--problem being Charlie said nothing about me when for dozens of stories I took opinions opposite from my own political pedigree (to my knowledge, you've never taken a position against Sam when he was wrong, or Colin, now, that he is being an incredible buffoon in his shameless defense of an indefensible tax)

Again, with respect, I think you should drop your membership cards and remain a good pundit. It would serve the city well and save you the trouble of making weak arguments about trying to bridge the entirely not connectable divide between punditry and hackery.

More accurately, news and opinion is what we provide. In most instances citizen bloggers dish it up flavoured with their views. I'm not a Jonathon Fowlie or a Jeff Lee. Those guys give you great reporting straight up.

I will never shed the ability to dig up new stories and share my point of view. If people don't like it, they don't have to read it. All I know is that several folks are now obsessed with challenging the information we provide. And the fact that Mayor's office staff are threatening news editors for sourcing CityCaucus.com seems also to indicate that we're touching a nerve.

You know who I am. Who the f*** is spartikus?

Mike, you know that this kind of standard doesn't apply to the left. O'Connor is a pro-Vision writer, as are many at the Courier.

When we used to see Adrian Dix on TV representing French immersion schools, did someone need to squeeze on the screen "former chief of staff to Glen Clark"? Or if Doug McArthur is on CTV or Global as a "public policy expert", do they let viewers know that he was Glen Clark's Deputy Minister?

Of course not. But if you or anyone else from the centre-right speaks, apparently different rules apply. Give me a break.

While this blog and others like it may have some positives, I think it and its ilk are one reason why people aren't being political--and if they are they're just rabidly reinforcing their own views without questioning a thing.

This blog is overtly pro-one party/philosophy--constantly picking away at one group in City Hall--the author's comment about no glass vs glass half full a few posts ago a clear example. It is then followed by comments littered with 'left wing hippies' , 'liberal bike nazis' and other mindless generalizations and stereotypes.

This is just one reason--perhaps a small one. But this type of blog (and there are many on all 'sides' of the political spectrum) where there's only one side to the story doesn't really serve the greater good--so posts like this where you're proud to be political kind of make me laugh.

It's like listening to Erin Chutter (spelling) and the other two on that morning show. It doesn't matter what the topic is, ANY topic and it's the same old right wing/left wing you're wrong/I'm right bs that gets trotted out. When is someone unique, someone different going to step up and rise above the torrent of divisive bs that's ruining politics?

How does the vigourous expression of political belief diminish public discourse? I don't think it does at all, in fact our problem today is probably more one of deadening consensus. Read the tirades of invective thrown around in the days when the public meeting was king!

"They're all the same," whether referring to opinions or, more likely, to the general suspicion of hidden agendas in support of special interests is the death of public involvement.

Personally I've never voted NPA but at the next election Ian Robertson will get my vote, as will Mike (probably!) if he stands. The latter is in spite of his involvement in shoring up the anti democratic 'at large' system which, by widening the gap between community and representative among other reasons, contributes to the political disengagement that concerns him. If you had a ward councillor, Mike, maybe your local school would have an advocate and we wouldn't have that interesting map showing all closures in the east, all renovation in the West .

The idea of the the unique, above division leader is wishful thinking. To some extent that was Gregor Robertson's appeal and we can be grateful that's all we got because the results of this fantasy have been a lot worse elsewhere!

So keep doing what you're doing, Mr Klassen. If you're getting criticism from both sides of the spectrum you can't be too far wrong.

"Red herring - arguments stand and fall on their own, regardless of the pen name."

I think more correctly, arguments stand and fall on their own, regardless of who advances them. This would make your post a red herring.

Or if Mike's background is relevant, maybe you should disclose yours.

Fair enough, but you haven't addressed any of the points I've raised. The Mayor's Office practice smash-mouth politics--that's not news. The prop up a puppet with the intelligence of a blade of grass, meanwhile Dr. Bedlam and Mike Magee run roughshod through the Hall.

Digging up news stories AND sharing your point of view is what you are supposed to be doing. But when that becomes the backdrop to a political run or you are so heavily invested, politically, then it's not your story that gets called into question--it's your credibility.

Mike you would get my vote if you did decide to run for city council. You've done a tremendous amount of work holding vision accountable. Definitely more than Susan Anton who is silent and votes with vision more often than not. Everyone knows your background and we appreciate hearing your opinions. I think whether you are left or right, just getting involved in the process is what matters. We shouldn't be so quick to pass judgement and should be encouraging Mike and others to keep up the dialogue.

How funny to see some people here criticizing you, Mike, for having a point of view. I mean, how DARE you! I suppose that's only okay if you work for the Courier or Straight or Vancouver Sun or City Hall.

Alex, I have to ask, aren't you or weren't you a member of the NPA? I read your excellent blog, not because I always agree with everything you post, but because you have a unique point of view and you are a talented writer. But, to claim that you are politically pure or non-partisan seems a bit of a stretch, don't you think? I give you full marks for insulting all politicians from all political backgrounds at one time or another! You clearly despise Sam Sullivan as much as you now seem to despise Gregor.

Mike and Daniel have posted articles critical of the NPA. I don't think it's unreasonable to think that an intelligent person like Mike can't have a point of view without merely spouting the talking points from a particular political party. First of all, the NPA doesn't issue "talking points" the way Vision does. On one hand people are critical of the NPA for not getting their act together and doing more, then on the other hand say that the NPA has too much influence over CityCaucus and Mike. Well, you can't have it both ways! Having had the chance to get to know Mike a little better over the past year, I'm pretty sure his opinions are his own and not that of any political committee feeding him talking points.

I'm fairly new here in Vancouver, so, l still look at things from an American political perspective. And to me, you all seem like Democrats! Some are a tad more conservative, some a tad more liberal, but, all in all, the values that most people hold here are fairly Liberal (as in American Liberals). That's why when I hear people trying to paint the NPA as being like the Republicans, it just makes me laugh. Sam Sullivan and Suzanne Anton are not AT ALL like Republicans, trust me.

Also, why hasn't anyone noticed that another new and well-funded publication here called the Vancouver Observer is owned and operated by Joel Solomon's sister, Linda Solomon? While Mike and CC gets accused of being influenced by the NPA, the VO pumps out Vision- and COPE-friendly stories alongside slams to Suzanne and the NPA on a daily basis. But I don't see Mike Howell or Frances Bula or Charlie Smith or Allen Garr questioning their links to Vision.

I think more correctly, arguments stand and fall on their own, regardless of who advances them.

I'm curious...who made that argument?

Or if Mike's background is relevant, maybe you should disclose yours.

I don't appear on TV. Or radio. Or in the Op-Ed pages of the Sun. Mike Klassen does.

It's entirly appropriate - entirely appropriate - for him to do so. His political ties do not negate his argument...but they are very relevant and it's the responsibility of CanWest that interviewees are properly identified. Mike has had numerous appearances on Global, which makes the failure to identify all the more noticeable. That, though, reflects on Global.

I've said it before, but I guess I have to say it again (and will probably have to say it again and again): I do not belong to any political party. I've never volunteered for any political party. I've never donated to any political party. I like politics. I like talking politics.

I'm curious...who made that argument?

In the negative, of course.

Hi Tom:

You've missed my point entirely. This isn't about political pedigree, it's about a logical transition from partisan politics to media and NOT the other way around. It doesn't work. Mike Duffy makes a very good Senator but that he spent a lifetime on CTV and now plays the partisan is difficult. If Mike were to remain a pundit and appropriately stayed away from partisan political plays, I would applaud that. his perspective is a good one.

On the issue of my own involvement, I find your question curious: are you trying to suggest that I might be in the same boat as Mike? Really you are kidding. I do not vote at NPA or any other AGMs, Mike does; I do not hold any political memberships, Mike does; I do not play a partisan role with any party. I simply want what's best.

Mike is a very good commentator, but his comments are no less tainted than anyone else who has difficulty understanding the difference between allowing your personal persuasion to bleed into the fabric of your writing, and appearing as if you are a shill for a particular party, using media contacts to get them a leg up.

Mike's credibility is not up for discussion with me--but it would be if he were to make the mistake of running so soon after running a "news source", however partisan.

To use an American example you might find useful: Rush Limbaugh is a conservative who votes Republican, but he neither carries a card nor attends their AGMs etc. Bill O'Reilly, same thing.

See now??

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