Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 8, 2008
Government needs principled politicians
By the time you read this, Canada will likely be in the midst of a federal election campaign. In recent decades, politicians have given us a lot to be cynical about - saying one thing when running for office, doing the exact opposite once elected; using taxpayers' money to reward their friends and run foolish, politically-motivated programs; treating the legislature with less respect than children treat their playgrounds.
Citizens have a right to be cynical, skeptical and unimpressed.
Despite all that, things would be much worse without our participation. The political process in Canada badly needs people of values and principles, people who will stand by their principles in the face of criticism and people who are willing to suffer electoral defeat because they believe their principles are more important than personal success or failure.
Canada also needs an informed electorate. Informed voters are not swayed by superficial advertising. They pay attention to the issues and debates between elections. They make their decision on which candidate or party to support based on an intelligent reflection on the issues.
And when a party is elected and does not live up to what it said it would do, informed voters hold that party accountable.
Considerable emphasis is often paid to the efficient running of government and to a widespread desire to reduce taxes. To be sure, people should not be over-taxed and government should be effectively run.
But there is more to government than that. The best government is not necessarily the government that governs the least.
A basic value for a good society is social solidarity. A good society looks after those in need. It realizes that any society has people on its margins, people who have little control over their own lives. A good society ensures the poor, the sick and the psychologically wounded receive the care they need.
The best way of doing that is through person-to-person action. Personal involvement in the care of the needy strengthens the bonds of solidarity in society. It acknowledges the responsibility we all have to build up the weak in a way that bureaucratic responses do not. It also helps the person in need to stand on his or her own feet in a way that impersonal responses do not.
But in a mass society where people can easily become anonymous, there remains a need for governments to play a major role in providing health care and social services, in protecting the jobs of workers, in protecting the environment for future generations.
The government response may be rule-bound and sometimes oppressive. But governments can respond to vast social issues in ways that individuals, churches or community organizations cannot. Governments can provide funding for people in need in a way that no other element of society can.
If we care about social solidarity, we need good government. We need elected officials committed to strengthening our social fabric. Such officials would be concerned not only to fully fund existing programs and needed new ones. They would also be fervent in protecting and enhancing family life, in protecting the lives and health of the innocent, and defending religious freedom. They would, to the best of their ability, strive for a just and peaceful international order.
Principled elected officials would not be swept away by the rising tide of moral relativism. They would insist on the necessity of the moral dimension in social and political life.
Canadian political structures are in short supply of such elected officials. But we need to find those people, work to get them elected, and then once they are elected challenge and support them. Some of us must seek to become those elected officials ourselves. If we want a good society, it is of crucial importance that we play an active role in the political process.
- Glen Argan
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