When Alberta was first settled, many people made their own homes out of sod slabs cut from the earth. There were thousands of these soddies, built by people who knew that if they took personal responsibility for their future, one day there would be a reward.
These self-sufficient people raised their own livestock, poultry, and eggs. They butchered their own meat, grew their own vegetables, and made their own butter, flour, and clothing. They cut their own hair and pulled each other’s teeth. They established the first school boards and the earliest municipal governments.
Back then, most everybody did things for themselves. They had to. There was nobody to do it for them. Nowadays things are different. People have more time for leisure, and often focus on issues other than the barest necessities. Physically, we probably don’t work as hard as the pioneers. We’re wealthier, so we hire people to do things for us. We hire homebuilders, mechanics, tradesmen, and professionals like lawyers and accountants.
The efficiency of modern farms means most of us can do things other than grow food. By going to the supermarket, we pay people who specialize in growing grain and raising beef and poultry. When we pay for a steak or loaf of bread, we’re telling the storekeeper and our farmer friends that we like what they do and hope they’ll keep doing it. We deliver that same message when we shop for other things.
Hiring people to do things has taken root in the way we think; nevertheless, there are some things we will never be able to hire others to do for us. Family responsibilities, for example, are deeply personal. We can’t hire a father, mother, uncle, or grandmother.
Similarly, every person who holds the personal privileges of citizenship also holds the personal responsibilities of citizenship. We can’t hire anyone to perform or discharge these obligations for us. We must do it ourselves.
In free societies, we each have a responsibility to observe our elected officials, and to determine who’s doing a good job and who isn’t. Then, like proverbial garden weeds, we need to yank out the poor performers by the roots. It’s every citizen’s responsibility to do so. We can neglect it, preferring to complain or be cynical, but we can never escape the consequences of ignoring that responsibility.
Constant weeding makes it possible for a gardener to reap a harvest. Government is much the same. Bad government priorities and bad government policies are like weeds. These political weeds sprout even when and where you don’t want them. (Consider the failure to establish regulatory support to ensure needed pipelines.)
Whether we like it or not, it’s inevitable that some people will be elected who shun fiscal responsibility and who generally conduct the affairs of government in a cavalier, irresponsible, or haphazard manner. In such instances, ordinary citizens have a responsibility to speak out.
At election time it is the responsibility of all us to express ourselves and make our voices heard by supporting candidates and parties that stand for accountability and good government. And when ordinary citizens do fully exercise these options and responsibilities, the whole community benefits from a deliberate “weeding” that occurs as a result of common sense people applying common sense ideas.
Kitchen Table Talk is a forum consisting of a small group of Official Opposition MLAs who each week, get together to talk through a legislative policy issue. As part of the process, a short commentary is compiled and edited. Editorial committee members include Grant Hunter (Cardston-Taber-Warner); Rick Strankman (Drumheller-Stettler); Scott Cyr (Bonnyville-Cold Lake); and Wes Taylor (Battle River-Wainwright).