Progressive is a wonderful word. In the world of useful words and phrases, it ranks right up there with “inclusive,” “broad-based consensus” and “environmentally sensitive.” Stick any of them in front of any belief or policy and instantly that idea gains credibility among the indolent chattering classes.
Modern-day political discourse has about it a quality of cultism practiced principally by woke elitists. In their world, their views on just about everything are so enlightened that anyone who dare question them is ignorant or, at best, an ill-informed regressive. This sacrifice of personal liberty knows no more fertile ground than that found in the increasingly powerful political-administrative state.
Government and those who fill its ranks, be they elected officials or the bureaucrats who guide and direct them, increasingly grasp for more power, as if to suggest that all aspects of our lives are represented by them and that somehow we just can’t do without their opinion. The idea of the citizen representative taking his temporary turn in government, aided by a humble civil service is a notion long since discarded.
I was struck by these thoughts when reading Prof. Tom Urbaniak’s excellent and thought-provoking column (“Is your candidate awake,” Cape Breton Post, Sept. 16).
Urbaniak challenges would-be members of soon-to-be elected Nova Scotia municipal councils to demonstrate some specific and definable objectives beyond personal affability and the capacity to address pothole problems.
In doing so he cites Prof. Clarence Stone, a noted American political scientist and researcher, who has written extensively on urban politics in the United States, his seminal work being his 1989 book, “Regime Politics.” Stone, as Urbaniak explains, speaks to the need to replace diffuse and weak authority with cohesive action.
The article then outlines the options available to us, encouraging the electorate to seek politicians beyond pot-hole fixers and to reach out to those who envisage some form of progressive-development regime.
He says local politicians who seek a progressive regime “run on clear platforms with clear goals” and should be ready with specifics such as being to tell you “how they will transform crumbling parts of your district” and “are they ready to push for more local and regional autonomy.”
In the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) election campaign there is certainly none of this in evidence. Not thus far, at least. There are proposed four-year plans with no mention of what should be in them; a proposal to hold a municipal conference on equalization with no mention made of what will be the CBRM position. There is talk of the need to bring forward a CBRM Charter without noting the failure of the CBRM council committee entrusted to deal with it to meet more than once over the last two years.
There are no specifics on the two biggest spending items for municipal government: policing and public works. However, fear not, plans are in the works for climate change conferences, food security plans and other albeit noble pursuits, yet ones beyond the scope of nice-sounding slogans with no explanation of how they fit into municipal government action. This is, however, how the new political state works and how its practitioners see their role in it.
We are all too familiar in Cape Breton with politicians with the big plans, especially those that involve spending tens of millions of dollars on fanciful and wasteful measures from Mabou to Sydney.
A progressive development regime sounds good on paper, but I prefer a smaller and more efficient government that concentrates on the basics and leaves most of the business of the people to the people. I am more in the school of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer who won election to her post in 2018 with the slogan, “Fix the damn roads.”
David Delaney is a keen observer of local politics. He lives in Albert Bridge.