A political review of Canada in the spring of 1998: Former prime minister Brian Mulroney receives the Order of Canada for all he’s done for our country, and Canadians from sea to sea to sea reach for the Scope to get that bad taste out of their mouths. The same week, Senator Michel Cogger refuses to resign his seat in the Upper House after he’s convicted of trying to influence government contracts. But these two followers of Dale Carnegie’s master work — How to Win Friends and Influence People — are more or less relics of the past. For the future we’ve got bright young up-and-comers like Joe Clark and Hugh Segal vying for the leadership of John A. Macdonald’s party. On the provincial scene, Bill Vander Zalm and his smile are back, having executed a bloodless coup of the B.C. Reform party. Barely six years after resigning in disgrace and leaving his previous political party in ruins (see also Mulroney, Brian; Order of Canada), Vander Zalm is ready to play the spoiler in the next provincial election — and he relishes the role. Meanwhile, the shallowness of character of some members elected to the Legislative Assembly, and of some of their deputies, is confirmed by such men of letters as Paul Reitsma and Dean Schneider, MLA Evelyn Gillespie’s constituency assistant. It’s difficult to believe that in a country blessed with so much, and in perhaps the richest province in this rich country, our political leaders can be so consistently disappointing. None of this is happening for the first time, but it does seem to be a particularly vacuous period in Canadian political history. Bravado and name calling pass for leadership in some quarters, while for most the whole political objective seems only to be to hold on to power. So where do we turn to for leadership? The cliché answer is to look within, to examine ourselves — and there is probably some truth in that. There isn’t likely to be one political leader who comes along who can inspire us all and show us the way to solve our problems. Political leaders don’t come from nowhere, they develop from a culture, a collection of people with similar ideas, people who refuse to accept second rate answers and obfuscation. That often starts at a local level, where people get involved in local issues and local government. There is plenty of opportunity to do that in Whistler. Taking an interest in Whistler’s 2002 vision plan may not directly influence Senator Cogger’s ethics or prevent another Paul Reitsma-type fiasco, but public involvement forces public accountability, and that’s where it must start.


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