By and large, the current crop of politicians aren’t respected or trusted. Premier Dwight Ball is the second-most unpopular premier in the country, and voters here don’t like the leaders of the opposition parties any better.
If it feels like things are getting worse, like the political pool is only becoming more and more toxic, you’re not alone thinking that.
Here’s the thing, though: every single week, as political reporter for The Telegram, I speak to smart, qualified, politically minded, passionately patriotic Newfoundlanders and Labradorians involved in business, government, labour, volunteerism and advocacy.
These people all share two qualities.
First, each one would be a serious, credible candidate if they ever ran for office, and, once elected, they’d immediately become one of the most erudite, interesting politicians in the House of Assembly.
The second quality they share is that each and every one of them would rather swim in the harbour than run for political office.
I’ve had dozens of conversations with these sorts of people, especially recently, as the leadership of the PC party and NDP are in flux, and lots of people expect the Liberal party might be looking for a new leader in the next little while.
Everyone hopes somebody dynamic and exciting steps up, and frankly, Ches Crosbie and Gerry Rogers don’t fit the bill.
What’s preventing somebody good, somebody exciting, somebody new and impressive from getting into politics?
The basic argument goes like this: the electorate is too fickle and too stupid to understand the difficult decisions that need to be made to change course for Newfoundland and Labrador, and if any politician showed the moral courage to really tell it like it is, they’d be ripped to shreds by craven political opponents and then chased out of office.
There are other reasons to stay on the sidelines, too: the demands of an unsympathetic press corps, and the inability to get things done because you have to overcome so many entrenched interests in the public-sector unions, the business community, rural communities and so on.
Oh, and then there’s the frustration of political parties, which are microcosms of all of the problems above, with the added concern that you have to maintain party unity or else you’ll be booted out of office.
Basically, politics is hard.
But if good people don’t get involved, those craven politicians who pander and lie are the only ones who are left. If people decide the political pool is too toxic, they cede that territory to toxic politicians who can thrive there, and, in turn, those people only make it worse. It becomes a feedback loop of cynicism and disengagement, and good people watch from afar, shake their heads and say, “Ain’t it awful.”
To all of those people who claim they care deeply about Newfoundland and Labrador, and want to see a brighter future in the province, I say: put up, or shut up. If you care more about your own paycheque, your own reputation, your own comfortable lifestyle, that’s fine, but at least be honest about it.
So, if you’ve made it this far, I’ve got a couple questions for you, dear reader: do you think you’re smarter, more qualified, with more of a conscience than at least half the MHAs in the House of Assembly? If so, are you going to run for office in 2019?
If you’re not going to run, why not? If people like you don’t run, how do you expect anything to ever get any better?
If not you, then who? If not now, then when?