Saturday, June 22, 2013

Today's Sun News Intellectual Thought: By-elections? BY-ELECTIONS!?

This is utterly stupid:
It’s about time we stopped wasting millions a year on byelections triggered by nothing other than a politician’s personal interests.

Ever since the first session of federal Parliament beginning in 1867, politicians have been leaving mid-term to upgrade to better gigs – leaving their constituents without the representatives who only months ago pledged whole-hearted devotion to a full term of public service. Oh, politics!
This is from QMI Agency's Anthony Furey, essentially saying that all the recent by-elections we're having in order to fill the positions of retiring politicians is a bad idea. Furey's position is that any politician elected to that position must stay in that position, no matter what circumstances arise (outside of death or illness), in order to save taxpayers' money. Politicians should "honour their commitments" by staying on for the entire length of their term, rather than leaving the position early for their own "ambitions."

While there is some sway to his argument, here is where he goes all wrong by then making an excuse for when Conservatives, in this case Peter Penashue, do it:
Sometimes they are necessary because the MP screwed up. Peter Penashue was right to resign and trigger this year’s Labrador byelection, given his 2011 campaign irregularities. But he could have saved us money and himself a job if he’d just followed the rules to begin with.
Oh, yes, he could have just avoided this mess by not being an idiot in the first place, but since he didn't, its OK if he breaks with Furey's own stated principles earlier - because there was zero reason for Penashue to resign and then run again except "ambition" - because, why? Because Sun News and the vast majority of its contributors are about as principled and honest as Peter Popoff.

It does get worse, however:
There are people out there making low wages in jobs they don’t particularly enjoy who fulfill their obligations far better than many MPs. As with so much we’re seeing on the political scene these days, these manoeuvres are a slap on the face to hardworking Canadians.
I am freakin' gobsmacked with this line.

Furey is essentially suggesting here that Joe Taxpayer working a low-wage job he hates stays there out of commitment to his job. For Christ's sake is that ever stupid.

Listen, Anthony. I'm pretty sure you live in a world right now whereby everything you've ever wanted you can pretty well get. I know this because its fairly clear you've either never worked in a low-wage job, or its at the very least been a very long time since you have.

How do I know this? Because no one who has such experiences fresh in their minds would say they're staying at their crappy jobs because of "commitment".

Crappy jobs are not a  freakin' cell phone contract or promisekeepers association. We work them because we must. We do not have a choice thanks to our circumstances, usually because its the only steady or convenient employment we can get because of children/mobility/income/education/health/etc. issues. We do not stay in jobs we hate or that are taking us nowhere because we feel a sense of commitment to it - we stay because we have no other choice if we want money to pay our bills and feed ourselves.

Now, compare this to being a politician. First off, running for elected office is all about ambition - you need to want the job in order to make the choice to run. And its kind of a crappy job, just so we're all clear - you have long hours as the ultimate public servant, the one everyone holds immediately responsible for the good and, more often than not, the bad of what happens in government.You can lose your job at a moment's notice, yet are laden with so many conflict of interest rules that you'd have a hard time actively engaging in anything else, especially another career path, without walking a fine line. Its a hard life to actively choose to pursue, though you'd never hear that from people like Furey here.

This isn't to say that politicians aren't compensated well, either in their income or in the opportunities opened up to them by becoming an elected member, but its something you're going to have to want. You don't become a politician because you need to, you become one because you have the means and the ambition to do so.

Therein lies the big difference here. I and most of my family members work/worked in crappy jobs because of a need, because otherwise we'd have no income. Politicians become politicians because they want the job. The same can be said of journalists, such as Furey, just fyi.

So, is it really anyone's place to say that these people who have made a choice to become an elected politician, mostly thanks to their ambition, should be forced to stay in that position even if they decide they wanted a career change?

See, I look at it in the light as if it was me - and I'd say, hell no. I would probably think twice before making a career shift like that if this sort of restriction was put on me. If I decide the job isn't for me, then I would want the right to decide to quit. Its a job I choose to get into, its one I can choose to leave. For whatever reason.

Furey mentioned Bob Rae, which is a good example. Rae is an extremely ambitious individual, evident by his career. During this term as MP for Toronto Centre, however, another opportunity has come up for him, namely being the negotiator for the First Nations communities in northern Ontario.

According to Furey, this is bad. Rae should stay in his position as MP, forgo an opportunity that has been offered to him and would likely be lost before his term was up in 2015, and just "stick it out." If I were Rae - and granted this is with the benefit of hindsight - I would ask myself back when I was first elected if I really wanted to be stuck in the career of MP for four years or more. Circumstances change, and opportunities arise - why would I unnecessarily restrict myself like that?

It isn't as if the people of the constituency Rae was elected to - aka his employer - doesn't have the right to find someone else to fill the vacancy. That is what by-elections are for. What Furey is saying that we should instead save what really amounts to a paltry sum in terms of what's going on - aka DEMOCRACY - and put on even more restrictions to ensure that anyone with the personal ambition to become a public servant really needs to think twice before choosing this career path.

Personally, and practically, I think that's wrong. Furey would probably think the same thing if he actually devoted brain power to his writings. Instead, we get this pandering-to-Joe-Taxpayer BS. Good to see Sun News is always on top of things.


  1. Technically, that is the rule in the UK. No one may resign from the House of Commons. Instead, over the last four centuries they've come up with a convenient device where if you want off, you get appointed "Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham" or "Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead" which are technically 'offices of profit and trust under the crown' which MPs cease to be MPs if they accept, though they may still run in byelections. This is also why they used to have byelections every time someone became a minister. It caries some minimal pay, and people remain in those positions until someone else wants to resign

    1. I remember learning about this before. Got to hand it to the British, they know how to find loopholes.