Everyone who knows me knows I have opinions. Some people would even say that the phrase “Plant rant” is a very good way of describing (at least some of) my opinions. But my goal here, notwithstanding the title, is to avoid ranting, and instead, post some observations on things I care about. I was going to say “thoughts”, but I don’t want to overreach.
I am a lawyer by profession and I have served in public office as a member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and, from 2001 to 2005, as BC’s Attorney General and minister responsible for Treaty Negotiations. I’ve taught law school courses on public law and I’ve certainly thought a lot over the years about our political and legal institutions and how they work and interact. I intend to write about these issues here.
It won’t all be politics and the law. I have opinions about lots of things: books, music, movies, weather and of course the Vancouver Canucks, to name a few. My wife and I also travel a lot, and I take photographs, so this space will probably soon look more like a randomly put together scrapbook than a serious blog. Oh well. I am not very serious, organized or disciplined about most things; why should that change here?
Along the way, I will probably say some things that are inconsistent with positions or policies I have advocated for - or even implemented - in the past. I will try to point this out when I remember, but I may not always remember.
I like to believe that I have an open mind, and that I am capable of changing my opinions as facts and circumstances change. (As in the famous, but perhaps apocryphal statement attributed to John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”) But the practice of politics imposes many constraints on free thinking and action.
For one thing, in our system, you are usually elected as a member of a caucus (as I was), and in Canada’s version of parliamentary democracy caucuses tend to function (and for lots of reasons need to function) as a team. This means that the really interesting discussions usually happen behind closed doors, and the resulting consensus thereafter becomes the public position of the whole caucus, whether or not it is the view of every single member of the group. (There are some exceptions to this.)
When I was in politics I sometimes said and did things as a member of my caucus that I did not personally agree with. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen, and I don’t say that just to make an excuse for what I did then, or why it’s different from what I might think or say today, but that’s just the way it is. I don’t operate under those rules now. I don’t think that means I get to be irresponsible just because I don’t have to be accountable to a caucus, a party or my constituents, but it does mean that I don’t feel constrained by the fact that I once publicly said or did something different from what I now believe to be the best view about an issue or problem. Anyway, I intend to say what I think. Respectfully, I hope, but also vigorously. And I welcome other views (though I do not presume that anyone will actually read what I write!). My hope is that when folks disagree they will not be disagreeable about it, but that’s probably naive. We seem to be pretty cranky these days. And perhaps with good reason. It’s a pretty unsettling time to be alive and paying attention. But hey, the Canucks won last night, I have had a few wonderful days with family, and the Christmas cookies this year seem to be better then ever!