A Government or a Corporation

Ron Bolin: June 10, 2012

If you want to understand the problem with our new NEDC, why our old new CEO left and why it will be difficult to attract anyone who understands corporate organizations to fill the vacuum, one need only read the job posting which appeared recently in the Bulletin.  Just before it comes to its final pitch, we find the following sentence describing the qualities necessary for the job:

“You are comfortable working with a Board of Directors and bring an uncompromising entrepreneurial spirit and the leadership agility to an environment where there are often competing interests and priorities.”  (Underlining mine)

Now it strikes me that uncompromising does not go naturally with agility.  But even more significantly a corporation is defined in which there are competing interests and priorities.  Any corporation which is not clear about its interests and priorities is doomed.  Who would invest in a corporation which is not clear about its interests and priorities?  Only, I think, those who are not investing their own money.

This is the quintessential difference between corporations and governments and why the Community Charter has led to the rapid recession of democracy in our municipalities.  Successful corporations have a clear and generally simple understanding of their interests and priorities: to return capital to their shareholders, to perpetuate themselves, and to grow.  Democratic governments are much more complex and their objectives are many and mixed.  It can be taken for granted that they strive to perpetuate themselves, but growth is an option, and do you know any government which returns a profit to its citizens rather than taking their substance?

Back in 2002, Allan Warnke, now a professor of political studies at VIU and formerly an MLA in Richmond-Steveston, wrote a cogent piece on the Community Charter and its thrust back in 2002.  See:


I believe that it is clear that his foresight was correct.  As Council’s gradually feel the power they were given (perhaps illegitimately and certainly surreptitiously in the guise of corporatehood) by the Province in 2004, they have simultaneously began to ignore their public in the belief of their own unassailable position. The public, correspondingly, has retreated ever further from the ballot box in recognition of their powerlessness.  If we are indeed a level of government then we should at least have the power to recall our Councillors.

I am interested in your observations on this situation and what we might be able to do about it.