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Brookman: Politicians forget at their peril that politics is like building a bridge – Calgary Herald

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Driving past the somewhat delayed new Inglewood Bridge, I could not help but reflect on what it takes to build a bridge. Through a  bit of research, I learned that Amsterdam has over 1,200 bridges, the most of any city in the world. The oldest bridge was constructed in 1648, and that the maintenance and the building of bridges in that city is a year-round and very expensive proposition costing millions of euros annually. It takes a lot of talent, time and planning to build a bridge and it takes a lot of effort to maintain them once they are constructed.

In Calgary, we have well over 100 bridges, with the Centre Street Bridge, constructed in 1916, the Grand Lady of our bridges and surely one of the most beautiful in Canada. The Jaipur Pedestrian Bridge to Prince’s Island is only 53 years old, but it has been shut down for some time and is to be replaced. Both of the bridges in Inglewood were about a hundred years old and they have both been replaced. Apparently, we don’t really build bridges as well as the Dutch, since their bridges tend to last for multiple centuries. Maybe they just work harder at planning and maintenance.

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Whether it is the beautiful Centre Street Bridge or one of the boring and functional Calgary bridges, we have to admit there is truly an art and science to building bridges; and in a city that enjoys two rivers running through it, bridges are a critical link to the community and vital to our future.

Our provincial political leaders could take many lessons from engineers because building bridges between individuals, groups and communities is just as much of an art and science as actually constructing a bridge. Building bridges between communities take time to plan, design, present and execute. Too often in the past few months, we have seen the Alberta government fail to take the necessary steps to actually building those bridges to the community, and end up getting enormous pushback and at times a complete backing down from the path that they were on.

Whether it was privatizing some little-used provincial parks, investing in the Keystone XL pipeline or rewriting a popular 1976 policy on coal mining, the government failed to build the bridges necessary to accomplish its goals. I have listened to Premier Jason Kenney make reasonable comments about the logic behind these decisions, but too many of these arguments are coming after the decisions have been made and thrust upon the public without warning. Just like designing a bridge, there is a skill to introducing new policies or making plans to change old ones. While leaders may feel they have the right to move fast without time to advise their constituents, the fact is the public does not like surprises and their reactions are swift and clear.

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The art of government is undoubtedly challenging, especially today, but there are no shortcuts to engaging the public. Understandably, political leaders become frustrated when they have to engage in public consultations, develop reports, meet with concerned individuals and work to convince the public of their wisdom. It was  American frontiersman Davy Crockett who said: “Be always sure you are right, and then go ahead” but “going ahead” does not mean shocking the public with new policies that have never been presented let alone debated in the legislature.

When you are building a bridge, you have to know the conditions on both shores; you have to understand the currents and the dangers of floods. You have to study the reports and understand the uses the bridge will serve and who might be impacted by construction. 

I truly wish the province would apply those same logistics to their decision-making, because without question, this approach of dropping ideas onto all of us without warning, not only results in embarrassment to the government, it also means some good ideas will be rejected along with the bad one.

“Slow down, plan the work and then work the plan.” Old advice for sure, but whether you are building a bridge or building bridges to the public, the rules don’t change. You break those rules at your peril.

George H. Brookman is chairman and company ambassador of West Canadian Digital Imaging Inc. 

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The empty, performative politics of Marjorie Taylor Greene – CNN

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She tweeted this along with the video: “Our neighbor, @RepMarieNewman, wants to pass the so-called ‘Equality’ Act to destroy women’s rights and religious freedoms,” she tweeted. “Thought we’d put up ours so she can look at it every time she opens her door.” Greene added a winking face emoji and an American flag.
Greene’s move was prompted by Newman, a Democratic member of Congress from Illinois whose office is across from Greene’s, putting up a transgender flag outside her office and tweeting this: “Our neighbor, @RepMTG tried to block the Equality Act because she believes prohibiting discrimination against trans Americans is ‘disgusting, immoral, and evil.’ Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door.”
Newman put a winky face emoji and a transgender flag emoji with her tweet.
Newman, whose daughter is transgender, was supporting the Equality Act that aims to ban discrimination based on sex, gender identity and sexual preference. In an emotional speech on the House floor earlier in the day Tuesday, Newman said this of the act: “The right time to pass this act was decades ago. The second best time is right now. I’m voting yes on the Equality Act for Evie Newman, my daughter and the strongest, bravest person I know.”
The back-and-forth between Newman and Greene is a reminder of an increasingly common strain in the Republican Party in the Trump age: Performative politics as an end in and of itself.
See, Greene isn’t putting that sign up because she thinks it might have some sort of actual effect on the debate over the Equality Act. The bill has support among the Democratic House majority and is likely to pass. Greene knows that. All she is doing is rallying her political base by putting on a performance with zero actual effect on how or whether this bill will become a law or not.
And of course, it worked. Greene’s video had 4.3 million views on Twitter as of Thursday morning, double the number that Newman’s video had gathered. It will further cement her status as a Trumpian cultural warrior, battling the forces of “woke” culture and standing up for traditional values.
“Rep. Newmans daughter is transgender, and this video and tweet represents the hate and fame driven politics of self-promotion at all evil costs,” tweeted Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger. “This garbage must end, in order to #RestoreOurGOP.”
That’s exactly right. For Greene, the performance and the controversy is the point. She has zero interest in actually legislating or even trying to build relationships with colleagues with whom she may not agree. Her sole interest is in building her Twitter followers, her small-dollar donor base and her profile on Fox News. That’s success for Greene. That’s how she views the job of representing the people of the 14th district of Georgia.
And she might be the most extreme example but she won’t be the only one. Donald Trump’s presidency (and his post-presidency) tilled the soil for candidates just like Greene to succeed. No longer is going to Washington to do something considered of value to the Republican base. Now the goal is to troll Democrats (and the media) with outlandish — and, in this case, intolerant — behavior. And of course to document and share it as widely as possible, because if a tree falls in the forest and all that.
Greene will view the back-and-forth with Newman as a major success. Her video will continue to accumulate views. More people will know her name. She’ll raise more money off it. Win, win, win for her.
And a loss for anyone who believes that politics is about relationships and actually trying to find common ground to get things done for the American people.

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How to make African politics less costly – The Economist

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AYISHA OSORI, a Nigerian lawyer and author, has vividly described running for political office in her country. She twists the arms of party elders, flatters their wives and hands over wads of banknotes—the cleaner the better. “Without money”, she concludes, “most aspirations would evaporate like steam.”

Politics costs money everywhere, but the link between cash and power is especially corrosive in Nigeria and across much of Africa. In rich democracies parties choose candidates and subsidise their campaigns. In many African ones aspiring politicians pay vast sums to run on a party ticket and then shell out even more to cover their own costs. They give voters handouts, which serve both as bribes and as hints of future generosity. Once in office, they keep spending: on constituents’ school fees, medical bills, funeral costs and construction projects (see article). Individual politicians, in effect, act as mini welfare states. Some 40% of ambulances in Uganda are owned by MPs. Their spending often dwarfs their official salaries.

This is bad for Africa. When a life in politics costs so much, the impecunious and honest will be excluded. Many MPs will either be rich to begin with, or feel the need to abuse power to recoup their expenses, or both. Even if they are not corrupt, MPs are a poor substitute for a genuine welfare state. Their largesse may go to those who ask loudest, or to a favoured ethnic group.

So long as states are weak, it makes sense for voters to ask their MPs for handouts, rather than for better laws or help to navigate the bureaucracy. It is also rational for MPs to neglect legislative work in favour of gifts and pork, if this is what voters say they want. But as Africa develops, this should change. As voters grow richer, they will be harder to buy. As governments grow more effective, MPs will have fewer gaps to fill. Alas, these shifts could take decades.

Africans need something better, sooner. Outsiders often suggest tougher campaign-finance laws, but these seldom work. They are often ignored. And laws copied from the West tend to miss the point, by regulating spending by parties before elections, rather than by sitting MPs.

Better would be to take a different approach. One aim would be to strengthen institutions that expose and punish corruption. Last year Malawians booted out the graft-ridden regime of Peter Mutharika thanks, in large part, to independent judges. Politicians who see graft punished are more likely to stay clean.

Another aim would be to encourage parties to run on policies, rather than ethnicity or patronage. African NGOs, trade unions and business groups should nudge them in this direction—or help set up alternatives. New parties, such as Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform in Uganda, are gaining popularity partly because they oppose the old rot. Philanthropists could give them money—and ask nothing in return.

The essential thing is to curb MPs’ informal role as sources of welfare. The long-term fix would be to make local governments work properly. A stopgap is to improve Constituency Development Funds. These are pots of public money to be spent largely at the discretion of MPs. More than a dozen African countries have them. They are not as grubby as they sound. Research from Kenya finds that voters judge MPs on how they use these funds, so they offer some accountability. With greater transparency, they would offer more.

Africa has grown more democratic in the past 30 years. Multi-party elections are common, albeit often flawed. Opposition parties are gaining ground. Most leaders leave office peacefully, rather than in coups. Politics is becoming more competitive. The next step is to make it less costly.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Fixing Africa’s pricey politics”

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ICRC Humanitarian Law & Policy blog: The grand scheme: power and politics in the climate crisis – World – ReliefWeb

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Even in the midst of a pandemic, during a seemingly endless cascade of events, climate change remains a defining issue. Its effects are even more severe for people affected by conflict and violence, who find themselves navigating the collision of war and environmental crises. How can the humanitarian community work with affected people to design policies and practices that have an impact?

In this post, Malvika Verma, a project development officer for ACTED Sri Lanka and India, argues that to strengthen climate action in conflict settings, a solid understanding of people’s vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities must be informed by the bigger picture – an analysis of pre-existing circuits of power and political relationships.

Read the full blog post here

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