Transparent or Translucent?

An auspicious day coming up next Tuesday, July 18. It marks the anniversary of the day Brennus of Gaul sacked and burned Rome in 390 BC. It was Nero who watched Rome burn a second time 454 years later on July 18, AD 64 and it’s the day John Horgan is scheduled to delete “designated” from his title and become Premier John Horgan, British Columbia’s 36th.
On the natural side of things, he faces real time forest fires that reduce the ancient Rome burning to camp fire size equivalence; on the political side he faces problems every other premier has faced plus a few he can be guaranteed will be unanticipated.
At his inauguration Tuesday, he will be trotting onto the field of political endeavour as captain of his hand-picked cabinet team of New Democrats, every one of them fulfilling a 16-year-old – or longer – dream of playing big time.
Selecting a cabinet is not easy, never has been. The social and physical geography of a province as vast as BC is so varied in life styles and economics that it is often difficult to find suitable personality matches. Finding men or women who meet high decision-making standards can be even more difficult, but can be eased somewhat if experienced deputy ministers and assistant deputies are already in place and dedicated to traditional public service ideals of serving the government and the people – whatever the government’s political name. Good deputies and their management teams have saved many a rookie minister from disaster.
Then there is – always – caucus, possibly the hardest group to please, yet the easiest to feel and harbour individual hurt if, after years of service, they are over-looked for promotion. Keeping caucus happy can be a premier’s toughest task. And, with no vote losses to spare in this most frail of new administrations, an unhappy caucus could prove the NDP’s undoing.
Adding to the expectation of serving faithfully, NDP caucus members overlooked for cabinet posts will also be coping with, and dependant for survival on, a yet-to-be-tested Confidence and Supply Agreement.
Premier Horgan has recognized that problem early with the appointment of Donna Sanford as executive director of a new secretariat in the premier’s office tasked with “overseeing” the NDP-Green agreement. No salary given yet, no staff recruited, no word on what the secretariat will cost or how those costs will be shared other than the constant truth in all such costs sharing ventures – taxpayers will pick up the tab.
I do not doubt that Ms. Sanford will do a good job but I don’t envy her the task of soothing caucus rebels (every caucus has them) the day they hear that the Greens were briefed earlier on pending policy changes than the NDP foot soldiers.
Green leader Andrew Weaver doesn’t hesitate to remind us he and his back-seat riding trio have been assured they will be kept informed every step of the way. The collective agreement does promise details of deputy minister and ministry staff briefings, adequate background documents – in fact everything “necessary to enable informed participation.”
Premier Horgan has been quoted by local news reporter Amy Smart as saying the new secretariat will boost transparency. It is designed “to be open and transparent so the public understands that we want to make this minority situation work.”
Fair enough, even though he and Mr. Weaver laboured mightily a short time back to make sure an opposing minority failed. I am left wondering if translucent would more accurately describe their tenuous agreement. Dictionaries tell us: “Transparent materials let light pass through them in straight lines so that you can see clearly through them. Translucent materials let some light through, but they scatter the light in all directions so that you cannot see clearly. Tissue paper is an example of translucent….”
I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

One comment

  1. Governments almost always begin as transparent because they are proud of their program and they want it to be visible. But as soon as difficulty arises they move to translucent. If difficulty cannot be corrected they move to stage 3, which is opaque.

    A truly democratic government, one that is a servant of the people, should always stay at stage 1 but it never happens.

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