It has always amazed me that there are very few minimum requirements to be an elected official in government. You do not need an education or any work experience. You do not need an internship or anything that would help you gain the necessary leadership or political and business experience. All you need is to get nominated, let your name stand, and get more people to vote for you than any other candidate. Essentially, it is a popularity contest which allows the most popular rather than the most competent person to be elected.
To prove my point, take a look at some of these quotes from our “highly qualified,” elected Canadian politicians;
- “As long as I am Prime Minister, I remain the Prime Minister.”– Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
- “My conduct had nothing to do with me.”– Al McLean
- “Budgets balance themselves.” – Justin Trudeau
- “My strategy has always been to stay on course unless a change, of course, is announced. And if it is, of course, we will announce it.”– Prime Minister John Turner
- “I am not denying anything I didn’t say.” – Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
- “My style of leadership, uh, and in my former role as well, was to state what my idea was but also to encourage, uh, you know, I know what I know and I know what I don’t know.” – Belinda Stronach
And our American friends are no better. Take a look at a few quotes from their “highly qualified,” elected government officials;
- ”I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman.” —California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
- ”I would have made a good Pope.” —President Richard Nixon
- ”I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have was that I didn’t study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people.” —Dan Quayle
- ”What right does Congress have to go around making laws just because they deem it necessary?” —Marion Barry
- ”I’ve now been in 57 states — I think one left to go.” —Barack Obama, at a campaign event in Beaverton, Oregon, May 9, 2008
So, what does this have to do with business?
Well, the government, its leadership and its policies set the stage for business growth or business decline. If the government leaders are business savvy and they make the right decisions based on micro and macro-economic conditions, economies and businesses will prosper. If they are ignorant of business and economics, and decisions are made based on political platforms and the push for re-election then our businesses, our economy, and our citizens will suffer. These decisions our elected officials make everyday are not simple and they have huge and lasting impact. Take Alberta for example;
- Alberta might be “just” a province but we generate a lot of revenue. In 2013, Alberta had a GDP of about $338B and a population of about 4,000,000 people. If Alberta was a country, our GDP would place us just above Denmark in 34th spot out of the 192 countries listed on the World Bank website.
- If Alberta were a business, we would be in 6th spot as the world’s largest business (based on yearly revenue) just behind ExxonMobil and British Petroleum who generated $376B and $353B respectively.
- A business, country or province that generates $338B in revenue each year is a very complicated machine that takes skilled leadership to run efficiently and effectively!
- Decisions that are made as a leader directing a $338B enterprise of any sort have huge ramifications. Decisions can make or break the enterprise. Decisions made by unskilled, unqualified and incompetent people put a prosperous future at risk!
There is no way a business like ExxonMobil or BP would allow a popular vote to determine who was going to be their next CEO. When they are looking to replace their CEO, they would look for someone who had the education, training and relevant work experience to take over this role and lead the company on to many more years of continued success. They would never allow their leadership to be determined by a popular vote.
Now I am not advocating that we turn our provinces, states or countries into some sort of business. However, I do think we need to give a lot more thought to who we elect into public office and the minimum requirements that the candidates must demonstrate before they are allowed to run in an election.
The strength and competence of our elected leaders and officials play a huge role in determining the success of our cities, provinces, states, countries and our businesses. It’s time we started taking this process much more seriously.