Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 31, 2005
Give us far-sighted goodness
The first part of the Gomery report will be released this week, perhaps, ironically, on the feast of All Saints. While few will turn to the Book of Proverbs as complementary reading to Gomery, this Old Testament text does provide clear calls for moral leadership.
Try Chapter 29. "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice. When the wicked are in authority, transgression increases" (v. 2, 16).
It should seem obvious that the sponsorship scandal involved the age-old human drama of righteousness vs., if not outright wickedness, surely unrepentant self-serving. Auditor-General Sheila Fraser described the situation bluntly when she said that those involved in the sponsorship scandal broke every rule in the book.
So it is perplexing to see Treasury Board President Reg Alcock announce that the government will hire 300 more auditors to detect any future finagling. It would seem the problem with the sponsorship program was not a lack of rules and bureaucracy, but rather a willingness of too many people to break the rules that already existed.
There was the infamous statement by then-Public Works Minister David Dingwall when he hired Chuck Guite to oversee the sponsorship program, "Welcome aboard. You won't rat on them (the previous Conservative government); you won't rat on us."
Transgression increases - not because of the lack of rules and bureaucracy, but because of the lack of righteousness.
The challenge to the prime minister and his government is to show unmistakable ethical leadership. To date, the people are not rejoicing.
Further into Proverbs 29, there is verse 18, translated in the King James version as, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."
Vision is indeed badly needed in Alberta as the provincial government's treasury overflows. This province has an amazing, unique opportunity to use multi-billion-dollar surpluses to create a solid economic future for itself and to take a crack at drastically reducing social inequality.
Instead, it is funnelling the money into meeting immediate needs and desires. Few will reject the spate of new hospitals or the $400 per person rebate.
But visionary these proposals are not. Why not strive to make Alberta the world leader in renewable resource technology? Why not provide more social housing and more adult literacy training - two initiatives that could help people on low incomes become contributors and beneficiaries of our economy?
Alberta's school system is already making special efforts to ensure all children achieve acceptable levels of literacy. But why not also strive to end the province's status as having the lowest percentage of high school graduates going on to post-secondary education?
Alberta's people are notable for their initiative and determination. But there is also a defensive insularity which tends to see the province as a victim rather than a responsible agent of positive change. Leadership in all areas of society can strive to overcome the negativity.
A lack of vision among provincial leaders when opportunity knocks is as much a matter of wickedness as is the rule-breaking at the federal level. Both are anchors that hinder the moral and economic development of the people.
Both call for a strengthening of the moral fibre of our leadership. In the case of corruption, a spirit of self-sacrifice must replace the breaking of rules to meet one's own ends. In the case of missed opportunities, lazy leadership must be replaced by dynamic forces which harness the province's collective energies to seize the moment.
Ultimately, society's problems are all moral and spiritual in nature. Those roots will not be torn out by more bureaucracy or by shovelling out money. We need a revolution of far-sighted goodness, especially in our national and provincial leadership.
It may sound simplistic. But we will not confront our society's problems until we have leadership that is far-sighted and dedicated to moral excellence.
- Glen Argan
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