Graham Steele on being an “effective citizen”

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>The Effective Citizen is Graham Steele&#8217;s second book since leaving politics.</p>

Since leaving a life of politics, Graham Steele has made it his business to shed light on the government, politicians, and what transpired behind closed doors when he was in office with Nova Scotia's first and only New Democratic Party government.

His latest book - The Effective Citizen, takes a deep dive into the psychology behind politicians and their answers as well as the best way for a regular Joe to get what they're looking for from their government.

"They're real people like you or me but they're in an environment you have to understand," said Steele in an interview with LighthouseNOW.

Steele was the NDP MLA for Halifax Fairview for 12 years, eventually taking on the position of Minister of Finance once the NDP held government.

His first book What I Learned About Politics: Inside the Rise - and Collapse – of Nova Scotia's NDP Government, served as a memoir to his time in government. He also worked as a political analyst for the CBC for several years and currently teaches at Dalhousie University.

The first half of his new book is all about what is going on inside a politician's head and the struggle of playing it safe in order to get re-elected or to tow the party line.

"You have to understand that when you're in elected office you get into the grip of what I call a 'political culture' - a way of thinking and behaving and speaking that is really all about political survival."

Steele says holding political office is more difficult than most candidates or even the public thinks and that leads to a shock once they get in office. The issue of politicians not answering questions he says comes from the fact that they are looking to get re-elected. Towing the party line or giving media non-answers is a sure sign the politician is unsure of themselves.

"They believe that the talking points are safe and as soon as they start thinking for themselves they're in a danger zone," said Steele. "It works well enough that it becomes a habit."

When asked if he had any more books in store for readers, Steele said he has one fictional one in mind.

"A murder mystery set in Province House," he laughs, adding that everyone in the legislature would be a suspect.

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