We live in an era of partisan politics. Extremism and bitterness hold sway in political arenas large and small, and Rocky View County (RVC) is no exception. As the nasty and negative become the norm, and as the consequences of this pervasive, noxious atmosphere become ever more obvious and ominous, we wonder just how and why this sorry state of affairs has come about.
Have people – and particularly politicians – suddenly become much more opinionated and self-interested, to the point where simple civility and constructive compromise are simply impossible? Are the issues themselves suddenly so divisive as to be inherently irreconcilable?
No. Circumstances change, certainly, but human nature remains much the same. We are a passionate and opinionated species, and it is no accident – or aberration – the most passionate among us often become our representatives. That's how democracy works.
Here is what has changed: the rules that democratic political institutions, large and small, have devised over the years to keep passions in check and to harness them constructively are being flouted. And everywhere, offenders have been getting away with this.
RVC council has rules, and one of our councillors has been flouting these – blatantly, and apparently defiantly and deliberately. Coun. Samanntha Wright has, from the outset, completely ignored the code of conduct she knowingly agreed to uphold. She was sanctioned for this, with no apparent effect. Now, it is clear that she is equally indifferent to the foundational concepts that govern all honest and effective elected bodies – the rules that deal with conflict of interest.
All politicians have personal interests, as well as passionate opinions. The kinds of rules that have evolved to deal with this simple and obvious fact do not work perfectly, but they work very much better than no rules at all. Two such rules are almost universal. It is well recognized that elected representatives should strive to the best of their abilities to represent all of their constituents, not just those with whom they happen to agree, and should thus sever official connections with organizations that have blatantly partisan agendas. Even more unequivocal, and more unequivocally obvious, is the concept of recusal – that all representatives should refrain from voting on specific issues in which they have a clear personal stake.
Wright, as is very well documented – and in stark contrast to her predecessor, Eric Lowther – has brazenly ignored both of these core standards – standards which it is no exaggeration to characterize as pillars of decent democracy. This kind of behaviour has no place on RVC council.