A Tale of Two Politicians: The Genesis of VoxVolo
Ralph Klein was a polarizing political figure in Alberta, Canada where he was Premier from 1992 through 2006. History will be kind to Ralph because with him, what you saw was what you got. He was famous for pointing out, particularly when doing something unpopular, that the unpopular thing he was going to do was precisely what he said he promised to do, if elected. He would dismiss the opposition with "if that's not what you wanted, then why did you elect me?” Ralph did not have a perfect record by any means but you really had a sense that he did his best to deliver what he promised and if you voted for him, that is precisely what you could expect.
"If that's not what you wanted, then why did you elect me?”attributed to Ralph Klein
Much later, a successor to Ralph Klein, Alison Redford, famously promised to "create 140 family care clinics...over three years.” I remember thinking that the promise was so specific it seemed like she was almost daring us to keep track of it. That's when it popped into my head — there should be a place to go and see what promises were made by whom and when. In the same place you should also be able to view the updates on that promise. This would inform both the ongoing relationship with the elected official but also provide another important data point when the next election rolls around. Hence was born the concept of VoxVolo.
The notion of actually keeping a campaign promise seems a little old fashioned these days. But as engagement in the political process wanes and cynicism grows it may be time to return to the idea that campaign promises are really like a contract between the elected and the electors. As such, promises need to be carefully considered and well constructed so that they are not only achievable, but objectively measurable. As Ms. Redford aspired to do, rather than the banal cliche of “improving healthcare” she put a number and a price tag on it and what that actually meant. Sadly her tenure as Premier did not last long enough to see that through to a conclusion.