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LETTER: Our elected officials must set an example

Letters to the editor

Dear Editor:

Over the past many years (decades) we’ve been experiencing an increasing decline in the civility of many aspects of our society, but especially in the political forums at all levels from local (municipalities, school boards, etc.) to the provincial and federal levels. Many will attribute this to be an imported phenomenon from other jurisdictions, but we need take ownership for what has happened and continues to happen in our communities, provinces and nation.

In the interests of returning to a higher level of decorum, I would suggest that current politicians at all levels, and also those who aspire to those roles, and/or are active in politics, to consider their behaviour and what the meaning of some of the following terms are to them:

Constituents – this should be the people who you serve, not just those who actually voted for you, but all members of the community which you represent (or want to represent). I would suggest that it would be a good practice to regularly consult and engage with members of this group, not just those who are members of a small group of like-minded ‘advisors’ to better understand the needs of all of the people that you have been elected to represent. (Knowing that not all of them voted for you).

Collaboration – working with others who have been elected for similar roles (or others from the community when/where appropriate) to develop policies, budgets, strategies, etc. to move a community in a positive direction and growth, including many times when these parties may have different priorities and objectives than you.

Compromise – in the spirit of collaboration and when looking to move in a progressive (financially, economically, socially) direction for the community to grow and to improve the overall quality of life for residents, it may be necessary to reach a compromise where the involved parties all achieve some progress toward their objectives, while no one group obtains or achieves all of the objectives which are its’ priorities. This should be considered a success, as it should result in some improvement of the current circumstance.

Concession – while this seems to be unacceptable to many in our present era, making a concession to reach a compromise, is not a bad thing, if compromise is reached by some concession from all sides to achieve an improvement in the status quo. Also, concession should not be viewed as failure if one loses in an election, or if there is a circumstance where someone’s views are not supported by the majority of voters, or other elected officials. It is okay to say congratulations to those who have won election or who have moved forward with an initiative that the majority in the community supports.

Civility – dialogue and debate should not devolve to a point where it is a shouting match, where it a partisan cheering or jeering session, or such other rude or child-like behaviour. Listening attentively, presenting facts, thoughts and recommendations in a respectful manner are all what should be expected as a minimum. By observation for several decades, it is apparent that no one politician or political party has a monopoly on all of the best (or better) ideas, and by the same token not all positions are not without some merit, especially if viewed in the context which they are referencing.

Controversy – while this is sometimes inevitable, there does not need to be a circumstance where elected officials or candidates are making this more provocative by distribution of disinformation, omission of facts, etc. (yes, this may seem naïve, BUT…) as we should be able, as a society, to have a reasonable discussion of the circumstance we are facing and the possible solutions and weighing options objectively.

I think that as a member of our society, to ask our “leaders” to ‘set an example’ as opposed to ‘being an example’ is not, or should not be, considered unreasonable.

As the Woody character says in Toy Story: “Play nice.”

Don Anderson