Opinion

Proposal: Job Training for Prospective Politicians

Imagine how much better our society would be if our elected political leaders had training for their job.

By Peter Hill
Published April 23, 2013

The following ideas and suggestions result from a contemplation of the desperate need for a more informed municipal political leadership, more informed in the sense of actually how to be a politician and how to cope with the intellectual demands such a life makes.

The backgrounds of many elected officials have not provided them with the necessary skills and understandings to provide the leadership demanded of them.

In assessing this matter for its value, I have called on an observant personal background as a student, an educator and an administrator of training programs over my career - and as a political candidate as well.

As has almost everyone else who is interested in our political system, I have become extremely concerned about the manner in which decisions are made by our political leadership and the knowledge they each bring to the decision-making process, particularly at the municipal level.

Our society dotes on creating educational and training programs for all manner of professions and trades. It has become a multi-billion dollar industry employing many thousands of people.

Generally, the more "important" something is to society - becoming a physician, a dentist, a lawyer, etc. - the longer the training program. Shorter programs of training exist for plumbers, electricians, security personnel, barbers, real estate agents, and so on.

Every occupation has a training program of some type - except one!

This one occupation, which provides not only remuneration but also health benefits, a pension and other "perks", is arguably the most important to our nation as a whole - that of the politician at all levels of government. We have developed no training programs for those we place in our highest positions.

Job Training for Politicians

How much better would our society be if our leaders had training for their job? And it is a job: it is not "public service", which is a term often used to describe the work of a politician.

It used to be that senior business leaders ran for election in order to "serve" the communities that made them wealthy. Today, that is not the case. People often enter politics early as part of an ambitious career path.

This proposal was first presented to McMaster University, from which I have had no response yet, and is for the development of a course of studies intended to make our elected representatives better.

I mean better in the sense that they will have some background in how governments work, how to read financial statements, relationships between and among governments, and so on.

However, I believe that it needs exposure to the wider Hamilton community in order to get some momentum going. I also believe that Mohawk College could have a role to play in its implementation and at least one of Hamilton's charitable foundations and a philanthropist to endow the program.

It needs more work. At this point it is an idea (I believe an idea whose time has come!), a concept for giving candidates skill sets they will need immediately if elected. And we need to start at the Municipal level - and in Hamilton!

The Proposal

Training and understandings needed by politicians on the first day of their incumbencies

It is acknowledged that the following is an incomplete listing of the knowledge needed by politicians the day after they are elected but it is a starting point for discussion and action.

It needs refinement and the application of a pedagogically correct order done by appropriate academics but this proposal is intended as the starting point for debate on the potential it possesses for doing two things:

  1. Improving the quality of our municipal political leadership.

  2. Effectively involving McMaster in the life of the community in a positive and highly visible way.

Because the program must be available to all in our society, the program needs to be free to the user. If not, it will be billed as discriminating against the poor.

Similarly, it should not have examinations or test of any nature since these would be perceived by those not in favour as discriminating against those having weaker intellects. Auditing a course is already a standard behaviour anyway.

However, attendance would be taken and a certificate given only to those who have attended a satisfactory number of the classes.

We live in a democracy that allows anyone to run for office, and the placement of a charge might be perceived as an unconstitutional barrier if it were to become a requirement - which I believe it should. This point should be debated, however.

Further, I envisaged the course running one night per week from September through April.

Topics (not exhaustive) would include the following, in no particular order:

Though initially it may not be a requirement for running for office, the holding of a Certificate of Completion by candidates might inform the public about the sincerity and dedication of the candidate and give him/her an advantage.

It would allow voters to distinguish between those sincerely interested in, and dedicated to, serving their communities and those who only wish to test the odds of being elected without the need for preparation of any kind.

As stated earlier, thought might also be given to offering this program with Mohawk College and the obtaining of funding from organizations such as the Hamilton Community Foundation and other such benefactors or philanthropists interested in improvements in public life.

Peter Hill has served on the Boards of Hamilton Children's Aid Society, Amity Goodwill Industries, Haldimand & Area Woodlot Owners' Association, Ontario Woodlot Association, and many other community committees. He was inducted into the McMaster Alumni Gallery of Distinction in 1991. He is a Past-President of the Durand Neighbourhood Association, Hamilton Public Relations Society, Lupus Society of Hamilton and was the founding Business Co-chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth Training Board. He served as President of the Dundas Valley Orchestra in 2009-2010 and 2012-2013. He has served on the city's Urban Advisory Committee and was a member of Hamilton's Rapid Transit Citizens' Advisory Committee (2010-2012). He holds a Master's degree in Geography. Now retired, he was Associate Registrar at McMaster University where he initiated its student recruitment activity and, subsequently, Director of Public Relations at the Hamilton Civic Hospitals where he initiated its community communications programs.

17 Comments

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted April 23, 2013 at 17:22:00

How about they have to passe a Political science to get the possition

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By logonfire (registered) | Posted April 24, 2013 at 23:46:26 in reply to Comment 88124

Conrad664, a Political Science program teaches the theory and is not practical enough. Beginning politicians need the "nitty-gritty", the nuts-and-bolts, treatment. It would be nice if everyone had a Political Science background - certainly better than what we have at present. What I am proposing a a simpler approach to at least start to improve the current situation we have.

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By Duke of Earl (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2013 at 19:50:09

Great idea!The course should be made available and mandatory for first timers,however if you cant afford the course then you are just another loser looking for a job,we already have enough of those on council.All of the dodging,double speak, misdirection and concealment,absent to answer questions and outright lying through their teeth has to stop now.You cant declare something "off the table" and still keep youre job.You cant do a shell game on the Tivoli property and then lay low till it all blows over and say its arts funding, and on it goes.Wanna know why outside investment dollars flow to other places?Take a look at what their agendas are doing to your city.Maybe this could all be easily explained,.......tap tap tap....

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By logonfire (registered) | Posted April 24, 2013 at 23:48:44 in reply to Comment 88130

Duke of Earl, I don't think a mandatory program would work, nor would having to pay for the course. I believe virtually everyone who runs for public office has the best interests of the community at heart but soon gets lost in the bureaucracy.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2013 at 21:26:01

Well interesting propsoal, but then, we must look at where it is coming form. So this wirter sat on boards for CAS and the Goodwill, yet both of these entities are not the good guys, in reality.

Why do people like this writer contiue to push a system that is broken?

The problem is not what this guy thinks, it is the fact that people do not vote. so where does he think classes are the answer, when the system is run by in my view sociopaths.

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By logonfire (registered) | Posted April 24, 2013 at 23:50:55 in reply to Comment 88131

SCRAP, what system do you have in mind? The fact that I have been involved with a variety of organizations means that I have some idea of what is needed and am able to suggest a proposal which might work if given a try. How would you propose to fix our system?

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted April 24, 2013 at 13:19:41 in reply to Comment 88131

Just like AnjoMan sais there is no one to vote for there alll whant the money thats about it accept for a few of the council that knows a few things or tow Clark and Collins

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 24, 2013 at 01:20:21 in reply to Comment 88131

You have it backwards. People don't vote because they expect it won't make a difference a) whether they vote and b) who gets into power. Its precisely because we know all the candidates most likely haven't got a clue what to do that we don't bother voting.

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By Cameron Bailey (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2013 at 23:56:35

Interesting...I would be in favour of that, even for citizens who just want to understand how city government works. Candidacy should be open to anyone, but I don't believe it shouldn't be considered as a job opportunity or a stepping stone to something else. Nor should it be a career. If we have seen anything in Hamilton, we have seen more than our share of career politicians and "celebrity" candidates who's only claim to the position is name recognition. Both of these groups have proven time and again to be out of touch with the citizens they represent. We'll never achieve something as dramatic as term limits, but something must be done to rid the city of the political entrenchment that breeds the mentality that keeping the job as councillor is the job of councillor.

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By redmike (registered) | Posted April 24, 2013 at 02:15:37

considering you couldnt/wouldnt fill out the proper paperwork to ensure your two business's were operating legally, all that work peter hill described sounds like it would be too much for someone like you.

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By Cameron Bailey (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2013 at 15:30:35 in reply to Comment 88136


Don't believe everything you read -- "Small Business Owner Asks City To Answer Question" doesn't make for a catchy headline.

All the paperwork was filed properly and I met every requirement the city had. The mistake I made was asking questions and expecting answers - then not backing away when I didn't get them. If anyone would like copies of our full correspondence file with the City, I would be happy to send them to you. 905 517 0830










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By Cameron Bailey (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2013 at 20:35:59

The conversation always seems to stop when I offer proof to back-up what I am saying. I am one citizen, taxpayer, small business owner, employer and father that says "ENOUGH". City Hall is choking the life out of Hamilton....slowly, one person/business at a time.

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By redmike (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 02:23:11 in reply to Comment 88170

i wasnt sitting here waiting for you to respond. thing is, i have a life outside the blogs. considering that whenever i visit the comment section of the hamiltonian/spec/rth/ etc, there you are, playing your violin, im suprised you have any time to pull pork. i expect what with all your time blogging and whingeing and ignoring your business, it wont be too long till your downtown location goes broke as well. though im certain you will frame it thusly: "i had two thriving successful business's. i gave it all up so i could run for council and help fight city hall!" get over your self. the city has no legal obligation to hold your hand during the start up and licensing of anyones business. hire a lawyer, a c.m.a, or do your own due diligence.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 05:17:07

I believe The Manning Institute is already doing this in Calgary... for grooming Preston's right wing up-and-comers.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted April 25, 2013 at 19:39:29

Perhaps, an easier and likely cheaper fix for our local politicians would be the development of a job description for councillors.

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2013 at 21:41:13

So logonfire, you think you ahve the anser, yet you gave no insight. As a layman, only a person, my view is irrelevant, right, given by the negative votes.

I am amazed by thsoe who keep trying to upbold a sysem that does not work. I am who I am, fault me if you wish.

It shoukld be the epople who decdie, not just the PR images taht are supposed to represent the intersts of the many, yet represent the interests of the few.

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