Here are two interesting sets of numbers: Dwight Ball, the new leader of the provincial Liberals, spent a whopping $312,733 to win the leadership of an opposition party.
Of that, $223,321 — or perilously close to a quarter of a million dollars — was his own money.
Paul Antle also ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party.
He didn’t win, coming in as the runner-up, but spent a whopping $438,000, including $274,426 of his own money — more than a quarter of a million dollars — in the effort.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Well, it’s an awful lot of money to cough up, just to show that you want a role in public service.
You have to start by asking the obvious question: is there any chance of running a major political party, even on the provincial stage, if you don’t have a pocketful of cash?
And does that necessarily mean we’re getting the best candidates we can to run for elected office, or simply the best equipped to pay the piper?
There are, of course, exceptions.
You could point to Premier Kathy Dunderdale as an example of how deep pockets aren’t necessary to take over as leader of a political party — but you’d have a hard time reproducing the particular set of circumstances that put Dunderdale in the job.
First, have a wildly popular premier unexpectedly resign.
Then, agree to take the job of premier solely on an interim basis, saying you’re not interested in the job.
Then, after a period of time in place, decide you want the job after all. Not only that, but have every other potentially interested candidate bail out and stay on the sidelines.
You’d have to admit that’s more than just being in the right place at the right time with the right skills — that’s a cosmic long shot set of circumstances.
But back to the expense train.
It’s certainly not unusual for leadership battles to be costly.
There are plenty of examples on the national stage where even winning campaigns have ended up being veritable cash millstones for the winners, let alone the also-rans.
It sets up an interesting composite picture of the kind of person likely to win: you have to be willing to risk barrels of cash for a job that, even if you get it, should take years (if not more) before your increased salary can ever top up your bank account again.
In other words, people willing to roll the dice with big money, confident that their choice is the right one.
Some would argue that particular set of attributes (or compulsions) is already over-represented in many levels of government. But without that set of traits you’re unlikely to get a seat at the table.
And the voters?
It looks like we get what you pay for.