Putting partisan politics aside to teach a new generation of leaders
Brett Mitchell, W5 Senior Producer
Published Friday, October 18, 2013 1:08PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 20, 2013 2:05PM EDT
In many ways, being a politician is a lot like being a parent, the hours are brutal, there is bound to be conflict and there is no formal training for the job.
While not much can be done about the hours and the strife, the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia is taking a novel approach to address the lack of training for would be politicians. It’s called the Summer Institute for Future Legislators, a one of a kind program that’s designed to be a crash course in governing.
"I’ve been interested for a long time in trying to improve the democratic process," said Preston Manning, the former Leader of the Official Opposition and the Reform Party. Manning is among the institute’s instructors and its greatest proponent. “It’s very difficult to get those reforms through, so another tack is to try and change the people in those organizations."
James Filipelli wants desperately to be one of those people to change Canada's political culture. As one of 42 participants in the institute's inaugural session, he's keen to learn all he can about governing and running for office. Filipelli, an electrical foreman, has previously run, and lost, in three provincial elections in B.C. under the banner of a new party called 'Your Political Party.'
"We believe that everything the government does should be completely public," said Filipelli. The experience at the politician school is a rare opportunity for him to be surrounded by other people who share his passion for politics. "There are other people like me that are out there that want to make a difference."
Among his classmates is Chardaye Bueckert, a political science student at Simon Fraser University with political ambitions. For her the greatest draw of the program is the roster of experienced politicians taking part. "The names I saw here were pretty amazing and I knew they’d have a lot to teach me," she told W5.
In addition to Manning, the other instructors include former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt, along with former federal cabinet ministers Anne McLellan, Stockwell Day and Chuck Strahl. They cover topics from working with a constituency office, and following proper parliamentary procedures to dealing with the media and even juggling professional and personal responsibilities.
The far reaching curriculum can make a retired politician like Strahl wish he had access to the teachings of experienced politicians before embarking on his career. "I wish I’d have known about the time commitment," said Strahl, "it’s basically all consuming."