Cabinet. PICK ME! PICK ME!
Sometimes I wish I could be a little more funny.
That or appear to be completely devoid of humour at all.
I was half-heartedly watching the cabinet appointments as it was coming out on twitter earlier this morning in between other odds and sods (let’s be honest, it was mostly hitting Retry on a Blackberry) I was doing at work. I desperately wanted to make a couple high-larious jokes along the way, scoop up a little unwarranted attention in a drive by character assassination for no apparent reason whatsoever. I fail at poli-funny.
Let’s be realistic, there’s only a limited amount of flexibility Premier Redford is going to have in naming her cabinet. We’ve been warned long and hard about that over the past week. We’ve also been inundated with messages that change is coming, change from within is happening, Alberta is to be freed from the Old Boys’ Club.
Now that multitude of reactions, that has been funny. Too old, too new, too same, too different, too red, too blue, it’s all been too much! The snips and pieces I read on twitter more substantially reflected your attitude from this morning going into the announcement than the news and personalities of who was coming out of it. If you supported Redford in her miraculous come-from-behind win it’s a perfectly fabulous cabinet that’s reflective of the new face on government. Should you be looking for a smaller cabinet, this remains a huge 21 person behemoth that will continue sucking money from our coffers. If you were critical of the Old Boys’ Club network, then you had two choices: Supportive of Redford and/or the PC’s meant you focused on the sweeping clean and the new faces, non-supportive of Redford and/or the PC’s meant you criticized the faces that did return. If you are a fan of $NEW_CABINET_MINISTER, well you’re so glad they got $NEW_CABINET_PORTFOLIO. If you disliked $OLD_CABINET_MINISTER you’re so grateful they’re out of cabinet, or you are outraged they were moved to $DIFFERENT_CABINET_PORTFOLIO.
This is change! / This is not change!
Well, the arguments over whether it’s a good cabinet or a bad cabinet has clearly not changed. We have huge expectations from our government, some of which are hopeful expectations and some of which are much more pessimistic.
I’m not very optimistic about the change in cabinet, personally. I’d very much love to have cabinet become a meritocracy where the true best rise to the occasion regardless of who they supported in the leadership race, which part of the province they live in, or their colour, creed or gender. Even where holding a cabinet post is unrelated to which party membership they hold! I’m dreaming, I know. However, if we had true accountability and accessibility in our government the superfluous details of cabinet making would become much less important since we’d all have the ability to raise our concerns, share our ideas, and find the improvements we as citizens require to advance. It doesn’t matter if the minister of the environment comes from downtown Edmonton or the outskirts of Fort McMurray if she or he is the best person for the job and actually does the best job possible.
Premier Redford hopefully chose from the best people she felt she had available to her cabinet. In my view, merit and ability - not gender - ought to cement your position in cabinet. I am a tubby, bald, white guy with occasional facial hair. In no way does any of that make me more or less caring about our province or society. In no way should that diminish my voice. Nor does it give me any excuse to disparage any other person in this province who choose to live here and consider themselves Albertan.
The problem with gender balance in cabinet has nothing to do with absolute numbers. The problem is that the cabinet needs to be representative of Albertans as a whole. I’m completely confident that cabinet does not do that and we collectively need to improve how we represent all of us. Until we fix the deeper problem of not attracting (and electing) our best citizens - be they male or female - we will continually struggle with an unbalanced gender ratio in cabinet. We know our very best and brightest are both men and women; if we choose the very best we expect to have balance. Are we encouraging the best men and discouraging the best women? We need to address this, but we can only address it in the long term - it cannot be fixed over one cabinet appointment.
Alberta’s cabinet is certainly not constituted as I would have chosen. I have a nagging feeling this is a coat of paint going up while the floor joists below are rotting. Fortunately, I have not been in caucus the past three years and don’t know the personalities and their collective abilities. I firmly believe that much of Stelmach’s difficulties arose from being reactionary to the Klein government which came before him. I sincerely hope that Redford is being proactive as opposed to reactive. I’d like to believe that she has an inside view that I am not privy to because I am on the outside of government.
Structurally, that is the single biggest change we need to take place immediately. We absolutely need all of Alberta’s citizens to get that clear, unobstructed view of the government which we have elected. We need the very best people we can get to do the very best job they can do. I don’t think we’ve got it, but I’m more than willing to try with what was chosen today.
The only antidote that can prevent this cabinet being a rehash of the same people and the same policies from the last cabinet must come from leadership. Decision making must be open and accountable. Move the discussion about legislation out from behind the closed doors of cabinet and into the public domain. Allow MLA’s to voice what’s best for their constituencies. It’s what I stand for, it seems to be much what Premier Redford promised. It’s time to deliver or get out of the way.