Future Voters

Councillor Phil Meagher and I spent an hour with several grade six classes at Dr. Clark School yesterday fielding questions about local government.  These young people, maybe 30 in total, were interested in a broad range of things, from how much we got paid to what was the hardest decision we ever had to make.

I thought I would stump them with the question about whether or not Fort McMurray is a city.  Boy, was I wrong on that one; they knew for a certainty that we are an urban centre in a specialized municipality.  The teacher sat in the back of the room, smiling like a Cheshire cat, proud that that particular lesson had sunk in.  I'll never forget the argument I had with my lovely wife over that question.  She was pretty insistent that we were a city.

It struck me that they were very interested in the "why".  Why did you run for council?  Why did you choose to be a leader?  Why do you think that being on council is fun?  Why questions are awesome because they demand a meaningful response.  I'm wondering if the electorate is asking enough "why" questions in the current provincial election campaign?

"What" questions are in abundance.  What are you going to do about this?  What are you going to do about that?  And, ultimately, what are you going to do for us?

Think about the rich answers you might get to these simple "why" questions. Why would you do this?  Why would you do that?  Why should I vote for you? Why?

All the policy stuff is important, as the voters need to know what that party is going to do, but let's not forget to ask about why.

Over the years, I've heard more than one politician suggest that an election campaign is like an extended job interview.  I'd love to watch candidates respond to some of the classics that you would hear when getting grilled by an interview panel.

Why have you applied for this job and how does it fit in with your career plan?

Give us an example of when you had a conflict in the workplace?  What happened?  What did you do to resolve the situation?  What, if anything, would you do differently?

What excites you the most about this opportunity?  What scares you the most?

What does integrity mean to you and what role does it play in the workplace?

If we were to ask your friends to identify your greatest strength and greatest weakness, what would they tell us?

My personal favourite:  When you pick up a copy of National Geographic, what are the stories that draw your attention the most.

I love that last one because it doesn't have anything to do with anything, yet always reveals a little something about the interviewee.  It reminds me of the casting director that asked me to leave the room and come back in again.

Why are you asking me to do this? I was thinking to myself as I grabbed that door handle, left the space, paused for a second, then came back in.  Did I do that right?  Did I just blow it?

At the end of the day, after all the party politics have been set aside, we are hiring someone for a job.  We are selecting an individual to represent us in a governing body that will make decisions that will impact our family, friends, and community.  The only difference is that the interview panel is a lot larger.

The kids at Dr. Clark got it right.  They were less interested in asking about potholes and taxation, and more keen to find out about us, and the "why" of why we were standing in front of them as municipal councillors, leaders.  I think we can take a lesson or two from these future voters as we prepare to offer someone a job on April 23rd.

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