There are almost 500 individual Albertans who have offered the rest of us their time and talents and have taken some serious time out of their lives to run for public office in this election. They represent a wide range of skills, experiences and qualities, some of them even applicable to a successful political life and some even applicable for governing. The rest of us can judge them as we wish because that is our right, after all, they are the ones seeking our consent to allow them to govern us. That citizen consent ought not to be granted lightly because we delegate a great deal of power to our elected representatives.
The irony of the paradox between politics and governing is that they are entirely different things. I call it the Catch 23 of our electoral system. The talents it takes to get the job, by using politics, are very different from the talents and skills needed to do the actual job of governing.
The vast majority of candidates will lose today and 83 will “win.” To win means your life will totally change. Privacy will be a thing of the past. You personal life will be public property as will most of your time. While you have governing to do you also have a constituency to represent and those are made up of real people with real problems. You are expected to be their advocate and to cut the red tape and the crap of government for them.
You will have to learn how to deal with the media and now to stay out of trouble and on message as dictated by your leader and his advisors. No political points are given for originality and as for freelancing -forget it - it comes with a cost.
You have to stake out your areas of interest and there better be more than just 3 or 4 key issues. You will have to become knowledgeable and authoritative and stay absolutely current in all of them if you are to be taken seriously. If you are taken seriously you will be pressed by special interests to become a political champion for them on those key issues. That is often a trap but not always. You will have to learn how to tell the difference and deal with it.
You will have to learn how to deal with a creature called a caucus and be a team player but also establish yourself as a thought-leader with a respected opinion if you are going to be effective at getting anything done. The art of persuasion and a facility at biting your tongue will be concurrent skills you will have to learn and hone.
You will have to create and collect something called political capital and learn how to use it to horse trade with you colleagues if you want to get thing done – especially if you are in government.
You will have to learn how to account for your expenses to the penny and round off program budgets like health and education to the nearest few million. You will have to learn to be prudent and cautious, innovative and imaginative, then grounded and transformational - all at the same time and see no conflict in that creative non-fiction approach to life.
You will have to learn to take a bullet for the mistakes of others, including your leaders, who may be prove to be fools from time to time - but they are your fools, get over it. You will have to suffer through too many official dinners, receptions, special events and community gatherings that will constantly take you away from your family and your sanity. You better like people because they are going to be everywhere in your life and many will think they own a part of you. Be especially afraid of those people.
You are going to be constantly judged and scrutinized by everyone you meet everywhere and all the time. They are entitled to be wrong in their opinions about you but they are still entitled tell everyone what they think about you anyway - and they will…mostly behind your back.
You will never again, while in public office, be entitled to presume you are having a private and personal conversation with anyone, anywhere at any time, including with your closest friends. Everything you say can and will become public, in some form or other, and if possible, used against you.
I understand from those who love both politics and governing that it is amongst the most rewarding thing you can do – if you are good at it. So thanks all of those who took the plunge and ran for purposes of the common good of the rest of us Albertans. Special thanks the leaders of the various political parties and for those who won. Very speical thanks in particular those who will get the call to become Cabinet Ministers.
Congratulations. Our prayers are with you…as is our future…no pressure!