Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iris, Doug and saying what you think

This week, a couple of provincial politicians have landed in hot water over speaking their mind. In this new age of uncontrolled messaging, this is inevitable. So where does this leave politicians, who have a vested interest in preserving their image (and their party's)? Will it create a desire to back away from honest, informal exchanges? I hope not. There is a great appetite for openness and transparency; the public is eager for people who are accessible and "real" in office.

Posting on a blog or zapping a quick line off on twitter is deceptively easy. There is no "communications expert" to run the message through. There is no approval process....and, so, of course, there is risk that you'll put something up without duly considering all the connotations, implications, etc....without remembering that not everyone who reads it likes you or will give you the benefit of the doubt....without thinking that someone may well be offended by your 'honesty.' It's an instant medium, and by its very nature, does not encourage a lot of careful reflection. So, how will these recent events ripple through the House? What will the impact be on "speaking your mind"? Will other MLAs, who have been sitting beside the pool of social networking, now feel more reluctant to jump in?

I hope not. I believe in the importance of reaching out and connecting with people through a variety of means, including on-line. I think openness is worth the gamble.

It's critical to know what our politicians are thinking, even if we disagree with it...perhaps most importantly if we disagree with it. The voting process in Alberta seems shallow to me: people vote for whoever showed up at their door, the party their family has always voted for, based on a 1/4 page flyer or the recommendation of a friend who is deemed "up" on politics. Few people actually research the ideas, the platforms, the candidates thoroughly.

Blogs and twitters allow us to gain a little more insight, to see the real person, and ultimately decide if this is someone we want to endorse. For this, we should all be grateful.

Specifically on the two "hot" topics: for the record, I think Iris's comment stirs up some good discussion about the value we place on children in our society. Where do they rank and are we, collectively and individually, willing to place their early years as a priority? I think choices are made at a family-level, but society also has a role to play in ensuring that it is POSSIBLE to choose. We need to have adequate supports in place to allow parents to stay at home, if they want to (including single parents). So, for me, I wasn't offended by her comments- I welcome the discussion on a larger scale around children and doing what is best for them. I think a society is measured by how well it takes care of its children and I see too many of our kids showing up at school emotionally and physically deprived to feel comfortable that "we" are doing a good job.

RE: Doug's comments. They were dumb. "Equal" jokes aren't appropriate and are especially out of place at a junior high grad when so many girls are trying to find their strengths. I know you didn't mean to offend, but you did. So, you apologized. 'Nuff said.

1 comment:

Libarbarian said...

Certainly we Albertans are known for our outspokenness, and it is a fine thing. But the Honourable Iris Evans was representing the Government of Alberta as the Minister of Finance and Enterprise when she expressed her off-the-cuff opinions to a Toronto business audience. Not just some dolt's personal Paleolithic ponderings on parenting - a Minister of the Crown! As a cabinet minister her words automatically carry more weight than others. Her opinions didn't just stir up discussion, they were a judgment. She explicitly said that there is one "proper", ie. "correct", way to raise children. Thus other ways of parenting are improper, incorrect and clearly WRONG. This wasn't about choices for working parents it was a simple body slam against anyone parenting the "improper" non-Iris Evans-approved way.