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