CBC Asks: Is politics broken? No, says Monte Solberg

The political process designs the rules that free up people to bring about change, writes Monte Solberg.

Monte Solberg served as member of Parliament for Medicine Hat, Alta., from 1993 to 2008. He was a cabinet minister for almost three years. He is a founder and principal at New West Public Affairs and writes a weekly column on politics for Sun newspapers. 

Twitter @montesolberg 
Former MP Monte Solberg still believes in the political process.

If you really want to change society, invent the next iPhone.

But most of us have trouble typing on an iPhone, let alone inventing one. If that’s your story, no problem — you can still do politics. Politics touches almost everything and sparks change in two big ways.

First, the political process designs the rules that free up people to bring about change, like creating the iPhone. If government rules don’t make it easy to freely speak and associate, start companies, invent things and protect property, that iPhone never gets built.

Second, the political process leads to government policies that directly change society by creating things like social programs, police forces or the Canadian Museum of Light Fixtures.

So yes, politics and the political process create change, but here’s the bad news. The political process is about more than pushing that Like button on Facebook. If that’s the sum total of your political activity, you’re a political poser.

To be meaningful, politics requires debate and action.

It might mean joining a political party, going to grungy hotel meeting rooms on a Saturday morning and drinking coffee that tastes like it’s been filtered through last Wednesday’s Toronto Star, all so you can debate the policy resolutions that your electoral district sends to the national convention.

Doubt you can make a difference? Consider this.

Recently in Alberta the Progressive Conservatives held a nomination meeting in a riding they will likely win in the next election. The winning candidate, the probable new MLA, received a paltry 111 votes, beating his closest rival by two votes.

Those 111 people did politics as opposed to just complaining, and they likely decided their next representative in that riding.

The political process and your involvement do matter, and politics is still the best way to enact real change.