“Honesty in politics is much like oxygen. The higher up you go, the scarcer it becomes.” (Unknown)
We have all heard the politician jokes. They are easy targets and I have also been known to ramble on about things I know nothing about, like local politics in Squamish. These politician jokes are only surpassed by lawyer jokes in the way they characterize politicians as deceitful, dishonest, self-serving and narcissistic. Most of us hear or read so much about political scandals involving sexual indiscretion, kickbacks, flip-flopping, lies and signs of lack-of-character that we have come to expect this conduct as par-for-the-course. We would all like to hope that the person we vote for is different, is really honest and truly sincere in their proclamations to be open, transparent and honest and committed to serving the interests of the community FIRST. Do we have these qualities for a leader, a mayor, in Auli Parviainen? I don’t think so. Although Squamish is certainly in need of change, I believe that choosing an inexperienced, politically unskilled individual who has already demonstrated questionable choices and lack of transparency would set us back even further and would set a very bad example of what the citizens of Squamish will accept in a mayoral candidate. Why do I believe this? Allow me to try and explain.
“It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs.” (Albert Einstein)
First, what about all those unanswered questions with regards to Ms. Parvianen’s role in the administration of a popular Facebook Group? One day she was an administrator, next days she is not, then she is an administrator, then again she is not. If we can’t count on a mayoral candidate to recognize when there is a conflict of interest by “administering”, as well as making content and membership decisions on a group clearly engaged in political discussions, how can we expect them to recognize and respect much more serious conflict of interest situations while in the role of mayor?
Second, do we not need a mayor we can trust, a mayor who not only claims and professes transparency, honesty and community-spirit, but who actually DEMONSTRATES these characteristics? Ms. Parvianen’s decision to withhold information (fully documented) of a public-safety nature from the members of the Facebook Squamish Speaks group does not fit with her claims for being “community minded”. We only have to look at the Penn State incident to see what can happen when individuals in positions of authority have knowledge of a real, or potential safety risk to the community, and decide not to adhere to their moral duty to act, to inform the community of a risk, real or potential.
Third, few would doubt that there has been a great deal of controversy, discussion and many unanswered questions with regards to various issues around the Facebook Squamish Speaks group. Where is Ms Parviainen’s commitment to transparency on these events and unfortunate circumstances? A mayoral candidate can’t really expect anyone to believe they have a sincere commitment to transparency, when they have also decided to withhold information from the community on something as (relatively) minor as a community forum.
Fourth, I can’t help but ask the same question posed by Theresa on the Squamish Chief Newspaper with regards to what can only be an “ego driven” decision to run for the top position in the community, when clearly Ms. Parviainen has no experience even at the lower levels of council/community leadership. If we cannot count on a mayoral candidate to recognize and admit to their own limitations and lack of experience in running a community, and to make the obvious and community-minded decision to start at the bottom, to learn the ropes first before placing yourself in the Captain’s Chair, how can we expect them to defer to the experts, to those with more skills, education or experience on matters of huge importance and significance to the community?
From my own politically ignorant perspective, I firmly believe that in order to hold the highest municipal position, a position where you will be making decisions on behalf of everyone in Squamish and where mistakes in judgment have broad implications for the entire community, candidates MUST actually DEMONSTRATE integrity, honesty and a capacity to make the tough (and often moral) decisions for the benefit of everyone. A mayor must also be able to put aside ego, self-interest and honestly recognize their limitations and inexperience and know when to defer to those with more experience, more skills or the need to start at the bottom before placing yourself in the most senior role.
If we cannot count on someone to make the right decisions, the tough decisions, the moral decisions to protect members of a small community forum/group, how can we possibly trust this person to make the far tougher decisions with far greater impact to the community, if they become mayor? If we cannot count on a mayoral candidate to be honest, open and transparent throughout incidents around a community forum, how can we expect them to be honest, open and transparent when they become mayor and their decisions will have a far greater impact on the community? If we can’t count on a mayoral candidate to admit to and recognize the limits to their own experience or lack of skills in community leadership and be willing to learn the ropes first, how can we expect this person to put aside their ego, their self-interest, when it comes to critical decisions that impact the entire community? When you combine these character questions with a fundamental lack of experience leading or making decisions on large-scale community, political or economic projects, I don’t believe we have a suitable mayoral candidate in Ms Parvianen.
I could never in good conscience vote for someone holding such an important role, and making so many critical decisions for the community, if they cannot show a capacity to make relatively simple but important decisions around conflict-of-interest, public-safety, transparency in a small community forum, or admitting to their lack of experience and limitations as a potential leader. Squamish should set its sights higher than this; we need to expect more from all of our municipal leaders. Yes we need change, but let’s not go for change that sets us back even further than where we are today simple because someone looks and sounds “different”. Let’s not settle for mediocrity or compromise, let’s shoot for excellence, integrity, honesty and unquestionable character in our leaders. I believe I have seen many of these qualities in more than a couple candidates for Squamish council and this has led to my decision to vote for the first time in my life. I only wish that one of these candidates had decided to run for mayor, they would have received my vote. I will certainly be looking for one of them in 2014.
Check out Squamish Politics – Round Two for a response to some of the activities around the 2014 Municipal elections.