Prior to my election as MLA for Dartmouth East, I spent many years teaching political science at Prince Andrew High School. Above my classroom door, there were two questions that I hoped would challenge my students: “What will be your contribution?” and “How will you improve your community?” Certainly, no matter what age or stage you are at in life, these are very important questions to ponder.
Along with these questions, I would always present to my students many definitions of politics at the beginning of the course, ranging from “politics is about how power will be exercised,” “politics is the affairs of the community’” ‘politics is about who gets what resources and why,” to “politics is the art of the possible.”
I would like to explore this concept of “politics as the art of the possible,” a term attributed to Otto von Bismarck. For students of politics, it is often associated with a school of thought that places the practical, or pragmatic ahead of narrow ideological thinking or goals. As an MLA, I believe our political system and approach to policy in Nova Scotia can be reformed with an injection of this attitude. I believe in an approach that focuses less on rigid ideology and partisan games, but emphasizes public policy that maximizes the public good and focuses on long term solutions to the economic and social issues facing our province.
My time in public life has taught me that we are united in our desire for a better tomorrow for our children and grand-children. If we are to move Nova Scotia forward, we must rethink our views on politics and approach the issues facing our province as an opportunity to practice the art of the possible. This is best facilitated by a collaborative approach among the political parties, as outlined in the Ivany report, and a less adversarial politics that Nova Scotians are tired of.
If politics is the art of the possible, then it is possible to have an education system that challenges our students and brings out the best in their nature. A system that sets students up for success based on their talents and abilities and that maximizes the learning potential of all Nova Scotians. I believe it is possible for schools to once again belong to the communities they serve and not the bureaucratic ooze that exists in our school boards.
If politics is the art of the possible, then it is possible to have a province with a robust and dynamic economy that ends the biggest export from Nova Scotia – People! – and accords opportunities for our residents to attain gainful employment.
If politics is the art of the possible, then it is possible to have a mental health system that is client centered and built on the principle of equity, a system that focuses on helping the whole person and focuses on prevention and early intervention before a crisis emerges.
If politics is the art of the possible, then it is possible to live in a province where the government is not being sued by it’s teachers and doctors. It is possible to have a province where government negotiates in a tough manner with public employees but does so in a respectful and professional manner.
If politics is the art of the possible, then it is possible for our province to restore a competitive film tax credit that attracts film productions and brings back the thousands of our film workers who have been sent into economic exile due to a reckless and short-sighted decision by Premier McNeil in 2015.
Finally, if politics is the art of the possible it is possible to restore public confidence in our political system and achieve greater political engagement on the part of our citizens. That confidence will not happen by “old school” politics but rather through a new collaborative approach to tackling our problems.
Nova Scotians desire ideas and solutions that focus on the economic and social realities of the early 21st century. Nova Scotians want equal opportunity for all our citizens to find fulfillment in their education, work and families. I believe there is always a light of hope. Despite the many obstacles we face, I believe if we approach politics as the art of the possible, we will ignite an economic, political and cultural rebirth of the province of Nova Scotia. Let us work together to achieve the Nova Scotia of our dreams and a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.