The number of Canadian politicians embroiled in scandal goes as long as your arm — from mayors in Winnipeg, London and of course, Toronto, to premiers Clark, Redford and Wynne and now even Prime Minister Stephen Harper is under fire over Senator Mike Duffy's housing expenses.
With scandals erupting at the federal, provincial and local levels … do you have any confidence in Canada’s elected officials?
Here's what you said:
And here's what we said:
Thomas Bink: This one’s pretty tough. I’ve never really had much confidence in our politicians. I mean, it just seems that public office attracts the wrong kinds of people — people that have been groomed for politics since birth and never had to deal with the day-to-day issues of the average Canadian. Then you elect someone who is a bit more like the Average Joe like Ralph Klein or Rob Ford … well, we’ve all seen how that works out. So, confidence? No. None.
Matthew Coutts: It is pretty hard to argue that, after watching the week-long train wreck that has consumed Toronto’s mayoralty. But then you look at the scandal plaguing our senators. They are unelected, and just as bad. So, really, I don’t think the problem is with elected officials, but more generally with those lured by power and authority. Even more frustrating is that it is not all officials. There are handfuls of Toronto city councillors, by way of example, whose integrity and conviction I respect. We don’t hear about them because actual politics is a thankless job. And when officials, elected or otherwise, go bad, they go really bad.
Andy Radia: I'm going to repeat something Conservative MP James Moore said during Question Period on Thursday: "Sometimes great people make big mistakes." I think there's a lot of great people in Parliament, in our provincial legislatures, in our city councils and yes, even our Senate who have put aside lucrative careers for public service. But sometimes good people make mistakes or bad decisions — it happens in all walks of life and all vocations. Unfortunately for politicians, when they make mistakes they get amplified. So yes, I have confidence in the vast majority of our elected politicians. But they are only human.
Coutts: I commend your optimism, Andy. But I can’t cosign that sentiment at all. I’m glad Moore thinks being elected makes a person “great,” but frankly it only gives them the opportunity to be great. Those who abuse the trust of the public fail that test. Yes, people make mistakes. But they own up to those mistakes, learn from them and become better people. They don’t ignore problems, deflect blame and throw allies under the bus. (And it is a sad state of affairs that I could be referring to any of half-a-dozen controversies at the moment.) The fact that so many “great people” are making such big mistakes suggests to me that something is broken in the way we choose who gets trusted with leadership.
Radia: Come on, Matt. I think it's unfair to paint all politicians with the same brush. Take a look at some of the resumes of our MPs. For the most part these are impressive individuals who paid their dues for years and years in their local communities, volunteering their time for good causes. It's the same at the provincial and local levels. Yes, there are some bad seeds, but there are some bad seed in all industries, including the media. If you look hard enough, you'll find some folks in our business that don't own up to their mistakes, that "ignore problems" and "throw allies under the bus." And let's not get carried away here, either. Some of the controversies that you reference are just allegations. Some — if not most — of them haven't been proven in any court other than the court of public opinion.
Coutts: But that’s exactly my point, Andy. There are some great public officials, politicians who go to work every day and do a yeoman’s job at whatever level they have been elected to represent. There are councillors who spend their days in somber committee meetings and federal MPs who are actually dedicated to providing their riding with a voice in Ottawa. But they are overshadowed by those embroiled in scandal and controversy – and, yes, some of them are merely allegations – who seem just as happy to suckle at the teat of power. And it exists in all walks of life, sure. But I don’t hire or employ those people. Politicians are chosen by us, they should be beyond reproach. That’s the point. We elect the best of us to speak for us. When they make mistakes, it should be amplified. When they are found in the wrong, it should be a shock to all of us, not just par for the course. The upstanding politicians, who we all agree are out there, should not be forced to operate under constant doubt because of how little we have come to expect from elected officials.
Bink: Good points all, but none of this has changed my opinion one iota. Now go back to your corners.
So what do you think? Have your say in the comments area below.