Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Museums and Politics

I grew up in rural New Brunswick, where families vote for a certain party, and no one strays from the party line because...well, they just don't.  The other common school of thought is that you vote for who you know and trust - we know Bev, we like Bev, and we support his terrible high-pants wardrobe choices.   It wouldn't matter if he drastically changed policies because when you know the guy, why bother to check out the party platform right?  We'll just march to the polls and vote for him because he's a good guy who is very community-minded - surely Bev wouldn't steer us wrong.

I work in heritage so obviously I appreciate and enjoy traditions, but voting the same way your family has voted for generations isn't exactly a smart move.  The issues change and the people change, so the parties are always having to reevaluate where they stand.  As for voting for Bev...well, having a personal relationship with the candidate is not equivalent to a "get out of jail free" card when it comes to reading the party platform.

Museums are among the groups that remain politically neutral.  We must work with all levels of government, regardless of which party happens to be in power.  Chantal Hebert commented at the 2009 CMA conference in Toronto that a common mistake (not just among museums) is that we focus all of our attention on the party in power instead of maintaining relationships with political parties in general.  By maintaining better relationships with all parties, advocacy will be much easier since we won't be a stranger, but a recognized and respected organization.

Several recent studies have shown that Canadians value museums.  They trust us, they believe in our work, and they expect to see it continue.  We need to take this message to the political candidates.  The Canadian Museums Association, Heritage Canada Foundation, and Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia have come up with some key facts to raise and questions to ask your political candidates.  These can be used when the candidate comes knocking at your door, when you attend public meetings, phone in to radio talk shows, or submit questions to the party leaders and candidates via social media.  It all helps to get the message across that Canadians do in fact care about their heritage, and museums provide many benefits to their communities in terms of quality of life and economic spin-off.

These tools are great!  We need advocacy groups who can help to keep an overall message on target, and to tackle those issues which are common to museums across the nation.  While we often feel like we're fighting the uphill battle alone, museums across the country are actually in the boat with us.  Imagine the power of all those voices.

On May 2nd Canadians are going to the polls.  Over the past two weeks students across the country have been rallying through vote mobs to tell politicians what they consider to be important issues.  Let's take a page from their positive, non-partisan book and get educated and advocating.  Oh, and then let's vote on May 2nd.


Anonymous said...

How very non-partisan of you! Yes everyone, VOTE!

L said...

Well spoken and successful in being unbiased. But, I do fault you for making me picture Bev and his higwaisted pants. sigh.