Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell spoke at the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce Luncheon this week and leadership was the topic of the day.
The meeting was packed and there were many candidates for various levels of office in attendance – school trustee, councillor and mayor.
In addition to being the first female prime minister, Campbell was also the first prime minister to hold office in all three levels of government. She noted that holding office at any level is an important and difficult responsibility.
Perhaps paradoxically, citizens are often more engaged by federal politics than they are on the municipal level even though they will likely be affected far more by their local city council. Voter turnout in the 2013 municipal election was a little more than 38 per cent, while turnout in the St. Albert-Edmonton constituency topped 70 per cent in the last federal election.
At all levels of government, what we really need are leaders.
As noted by Campbell, being a leader is not the same thing as being a manager. Inevitably, many people who are elected are not prepared to lead, even if they are prepared to manage. Campbell shared the view of longtime Harvard University Kennedy School of Government professor Marty Linsky, who said that leadership can require alienating your supporters in order to accomplish what you need to.
“If you need to move the people who support you into a new direction, how do you do that?,” asked Campbell. “He (Linksy) said it’s very hard, it’s often very dangerous and not a lot of people do it. They don’t really lead, they manage.”
There are multiple significant decisions facing the next council, ones that will shape the future of the city. While the plebiscite question has gotten a lot of attention, there are others like the upcoming annexation with Sturgeon County that will ultimately have a bigger impact on St. Albert. St. Albert is about to embark on an update of its Municipal Development Plan and the uses determined for this annexed land will have a lasting effect on our city. It may be the most important issue facing the new council.
We currently have more than 20 candidates running for councillor and three running for mayor. Which ones are ready to lead? Which ones are willing to make decisions for the greater good of the city, even if it means alienating their supporters?
St. Albertans will head to the polls October 16th to elect a new council. These men and women will need to make tough decisions. It’s a logjam of candidates and voters will have to do their homework to determine who are the true leaders.