Transparency is one of those great political buzzwords that sounds great in a debate. But what does it really mean?
How open should government be? How open can it be before the decision-making process simply grinds to a halt as politicians are afraid to speak their minds or twist the arms of their colleagues?
And then there are the personnel matters and other sensitive financial issues — such as real estate deals — that have to be handled behind closed doors.
There is a school of thought that you elect people whom you believe will best represent your interests at whatever level of government, then you let them do their job.
An unusual example of political transparency has come to light in what is becoming a very interesting byelection in the provincial Winnipeg constituency of Fort Whyte.
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister — who’s hoping to hold on to the seat for the Tories — has used an relatively obscure section of the Elections Act requesting that his address not be published.
Why do we need to know the exact address of where all candidates live?
Well, it apparently comes from a time when transparency was also an issue as candidates were parachuted into an area from across town or across the country to fly a party’s colours. The calls for transparency of residence were apparently seen to be justified at the time, although they seem a bit archaic now.
Pallister, acclaimed as Tory leader in July, told the Winnipeg Free Press he understands as someone who leads a political party and is seeking elected office he is “public property to a degree.”
“But at the same time, my kids (daughters aged 15 and 21) didn’t sign up for this. Where we make our home, frankly, is a family matter,” he said, noting he has had to deal with vague threats in the past.
And we agree with that.
Times have changed, and we see no need for a candidate to have to have his full address published.
Pallister, who is favoured to retain the seat for the Conservatives, has made no secret of the fact he lives in neighbouring Charleswood. So we believe he’s being transparent enough.
But some of his opponents will find a way to score a few measly political points with his decision.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 23, 2012