Sidney vs. Goliath

Member of the Legislative Assembly for Morell-Mermaid, Sidney MacEwen, went where no member of the public had gone before: a meeting of the Health PEI board (CBC, The Guardian).

And he provided a compelling blow-by-blow account of the experience on Island Morning this morning.

I applaud Sidney’s efforts: he’s doing what opposition MLAs are supposed to do, shining light into some of the darker less-noticed corners of government (in this case, a corner with a $640 million budget).

Sidney’s efforts point to a larger issue: a growing schism between two views of the relationship between government and the citizenry.

The first is the “leave things to us” model, the predominant model of the MacLauchlan government and governments before it. In this model there is a professional public service, and a very clearly defined (and generally very limited) set of portals through which citizens can see and offer feedback on the policy-making process.

The second is the “we’re doing this together” model, and it’s a model informed strongly by the ongoing digital transformation. Under this model, government and the citizenry are involved in a joint, constant, ongoing, multi-faceted policy-making partnership that dramatically increases the surfaces over which the public service and the public collaborate. This model is messy, we’re not quite sure how it works yet, and it’s likely that many of the cherished institutions and approaches to governance will break when exposed to it.

On the floor of the Legislative Assembly, the Premier sits beyond the rail, where he is served chilled orange juice by pages, and citizens sit thirsty in the gallery, remaining silent.

On the Internet there’s no rail, and the Premier’s just like us.

How we rationalize that dichotomy is the project that Sidney MacEwen is ultimately engaged in.

It will be fascinating to see how we work this out.


Laurent Beaulieu's picture
Laurent Beaulieu on January 12, 2018 - 00:40 Permalink

Yes an interesting point and one we saw last night at the first ever open public meeting on pre-budget 2018. The only problem was the attitude of leave it to us is still in place. What the public saw was the expired budget 2017 and could offer suggestions about the new budget. I think that this old system should go but it will take a lot of work to open up government at the City level and at the Provincial level to more access and discussion and finally change attitudes.