Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Fort McMurray Job Interview

The names for the ballot have been decided, and the race is on. Most of the candidates declared their intent to seek election some time ago, with only a new name or two popping up on nomination day. Yep, election season is on us (again) and with it comes the political punditry and advice.

I feel like a veteran of the election season in Fort McMurray. I have worked on campaigns, voted in campaigns, hung around the fringes of campaigns and learned a few (dozen) things. I have learned everyone has an opinion, including how to run a campaign, how to get elected and, once there, how to hang onto your seat (literally and figuratively). We have been through a municipal by-election, general municipal election, provincial election and a federal by-election in just the last few years I have been writing this blog (and we are now on our fourth Premier in that time span, but that may be best left undiscussed as it marks a bit of a dark period).
A few days ago I commented on the tepid nature and slow start of this most recent by-election on my Facebook page, a comment I had been hearing frequently but that few were expressing openly. I took some heat for perhaps being “unsupportive” of friends who are campaigning during this election, but I was unfazed by this as if there is one thing politics should not be it is personal (and since I know virtually all of the candidates it must become even less personal, because I cannot split my vote for every person on my friend list). Running for office is not about friendships or personalities: it is about the best fit for the job – because a political campaign is really nothing more than an extended job interview with an HR department of thousands of voters. There are personal relationships – and then there are politics, and the two do not mix and mingle in my world (just ask the politicians I have worked with and for, and who might have been the recipient of my vote and my support and my hard work but also of my occasionally blistering emails of discontent once they are in office).

Today, though, I want to talk about job interviews. A political campaign is one helluva job interview, probably the longest a potential employee will ever endure and, at times, brutal. The reality is, though, unless approached as a job interview I think a candidate undersells themselves and the importance of the job, meaning it is a job interview that deserves nothing less than a full commitment.
What does that commitment mean to me?

1)      Aggressive door knocking: I will be straight up here and say that the concept of door knocking terrifies me a bit as I have heard of candidates getting punched, bitten by dogs and thrown off porches – but this ground game is an essential part of a successful political campaign.

2)      Communications are key: I would anticipate the candidates use whatever platform they have available to them, including the aggressive use of press releases to discuss the issues at hand, which brings us to...

3)      The issues: I would suggest candidates don’t tell us what the issues are, as we know them. What the voters – their future employers – need to know is their ideas for solutions, not some whinging (sort of like whining but a far better word borrowed from the British) about the problems that exist. They might not even the be right solutions or the ones we eventually use, but I want to see that we are electing problem solvers. And since the candidates are discussing solutions, not problems, that means they can...

4)      Resist from laying blame at the feet of others: That’s right. Maybe the candidate thinks the previous members of council didn’t do their job right or got decisions wrong, but as we all know the armchair quarterback is the easiest position to play on any team. Recognize that the previous councillors acted as they did because of the information they had at the time, and put the blame right in the same place as the whinging.

5)      Experience is gold: Far from being unimportant this matters. Experience on boards, in organizations, work experience – all of these matter and should be addressed (perhaps cleverly as opposed to bluntly) in those communication tools. That a candidate “cares” about the community or will “work hard” matters little to me as it should be a given and assumed – what I want to know is their experience, their expertise and their ideas for the future.

6)      Humility helps: One should never assume they have the job before the contract is signed. Each and every candidate is asking for the support of the voters, and as such a degree of humbleness is appropriate in the case of this interview.

To be very frank I do believe this by-election has gotten off to a very tepid start, and as a result I fear exceptionally low voter turnout. Along with this I think we are experiencing voter fatigue in our region, a sense of apathy as we have seen far too many lawn signs come and go over the last few years. I am hopeful that now with the names on the ballot decided we will see some excitement ignited, and I look forward to that happening.

I wish my best to all the candidates. They have a long four weeks ahead (and people like me watching and opining, which is undoubtedly a headache but all part of the package deal). It will be interesting to see where it goes from today, as I think this is truly anyone’s election to win – you know, if they impress their new bosses, the voters of Fort McMurray.

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