Listen Up! What motivates people to seek public office in today’s toxic, populist, unproductive political climate?



Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Sadly, Politics as Usual

Perhaps it’s just the lousy weather we have had this Spring, but I am having a hard time getting hyped up about the Federal election that is almost on our doorstep. Strange for me, as many of you will be aware, I am somewhat of a political junkie. Normally, I love elections!

In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to either meet with, or to research the four candidates who are seeking the Conservative nomination in Parry Sound-Muskoka. I only know one of them well, but I am impressed with all four of them. As the late Stan Darling would have said, they are all full of you know what and vinegar. (Actually, Stan would have said it much more graphically.) They are hyped on energy and raring to go. They are all, in different ways, well qualified, dedicated to public service and would, in my view, represent this Riding well.

In this particular contest, I will be supporting Scott Aitchison, the current Mayor of Huntsville, not only because I know him well and, that of the four candidates, he is best known in the Riding, having actually lived here all of his life, but also because he has by far, the most experience in the trenches of elected politics. He knows it is a blood sport and he knows what he is getting into. He understands politics from the inside, and he knows how the system works and to a certain extent, he knows how to work it.

But while I am impressed with these young people and others like them, I can’t help wondering what it is that motivates them to seek public office in today’s toxic, populist and unproductive political climate, especially, when all of them have enough talent to do exceptionally well in the private sector. No doubt, they believe they can change things. I believed that once, but in today’s political and populist environment, I wonder.

The reality is that only a small percentage of elected politicians at the Provincial and Federal levels of Government get off the back benches. Everyone who runs, believes or at least hopes, they are going to be Prime Minister, Premier or a senior Cabinet Minister but the hard truth is that only a handful get there. The rest are told how to vote, when to keep their mouths shut and as we have seen too often lately, even when to give standing ovations. Trained monkeys. And as we have also seen too often lately, if they don’t absolutely toe the Party line like sheep, they are toast. Everything they do politically, is highly and centrally controlled. It takes a special kind of person to subject themselves to that. It calls the whole concept of democracy and freedom of expression into question.

Whoever wins the Conservative nomination in Parry Sound- Muskoka, will have a steep hill to climb, if they want to get to Ottawa. Compared to the Liberals, they will have a very narrow window through which to campaign. Trisha Cowie, the Liberal nominated candidate has effectively been on the campaign trail for the past four years. She gave Tony Clement a run for his money in the last election. She has a high profile in the Riding and as I said about Scott Aitchison, profile counts.

In spite of what some people believe, Parry-Sound Muskoka is not a safe riding for the Conservatives. The Liberals know that. If they didn’t believe they could take this Riding, Justin Trudeau would not have wasted his time by showing up here for an event with Trisha Cowie.

It is also interesting that to date, no candidate has come forward for the Green Party in this Riding. The Green Party is making gains across the Country and they did reasonably well here in the last election. Their leader, Elizabeth May, has all but indicated that her Party would support the Liberals if they formed a Minority Government. Is it possible that a deal has been made? The Green’s help the Liberals here by not putting up a strong opposition and elsewhere in Canada, the Liberals do the same for the Green’s where they have a chance of winning a Riding, where the Liberals do not? It may sound Machiavellian, but remember, politics is a blood sport.

There are no huge federal issues that are specific to Parry Sound- Muskoka only. Flooding of course, is a big one, but those who really understand the political system, know that responsibility for this lies primarily at the Provincial and Municipal levels. And so, my guess is, that as the country goes, so will Parry Sound- Muskoka. The answer to the question of how that will turn out, is still up for grabs.

The polls for Justin Trudeau and his Liberals are not very good right now. But polls can change in the twinkling of an eye and like any Party in power, the Liberals will do whatever they believe they need to, to hold onto that power. They will make the deals, they will spend the money, (your money), they will stack the deck, they will use scare tactics and they will make promises they will never keep. Politics as usual.

On the other hand, Andrew Scheer and his Conservatives, are ahead in the polls, but not by much. In spite of the low ratings Trudeau currently enjoys, Scheer and company have not yet adequately demonstrated that they would be an effective alternative. The Conservatives have allowed themselves to be pigeon-holed on certain social issues, unfairly in my view, but they have not adequately fought back and Andrew Scheer’s refusal to walk in Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade, does nothing to help this. People do not know what the Conservatives really stand for. They will be judged by how well they clarify that over the next several months. After all, Government should be for all the people, not just some of them.

And so, between now and October, the Federal election campaign will be a mudslinging, horse race. There is a lot at stake. We may be looking at a minority government for the first time in decades.

Somehow, I can’t get too excited about all of this. Maybe, when it comes to politics, in this day and age, I’m too depressed. I just do not see a happy ending.

Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.


  1. BJ Boltauzer on

    I agree with most aspects of Mr Mackenzie’s article on the forthcoming elections and the situation concerning the situations various political parties find themselves in right now.
    What interests me is his closing statement that he just does not see a happy ending. My question is what would be a happy ending for Mr Mackenzie, considering that his article gives a notion that the author is a balanced, neutral observer and commentator.

  2. One has to wonder why one needs to assess potential candidates…after all, as Hugh points out, once elected, they are indeed trained monkeys. We need to rein in the powers of the PMO, and allow our elected members to once again actually represent their constituents. No wonder voter turnout is so low.

    • Brian Samuell on

      I’ve been convinced by the political attack ads of the liberals and conservatives that neither leader is capable. I’m sick of watching them sell favors to their respective big money donors too.

      So I’ve decided to never vote for these parties and to vote Green from now until I die of old age. When a political hack tells me I’m wasting my vote I’ll tell the hack that over time as we all get sick of them we’ll all turn to a clean party one vote by one vote. And after a few elections we can get rid of the buyers, the sellers, and the hacks. I’ll give no more votes to opportunists looking for power putting me in second place.

      And I know that the Greens will make the world a better place for my children and their children.

      It’s time.

  3. Donald MacKay on

    Hughie. Might be time to sheath the pen and unplug the keyboard. I have never seen you this negative. I am inclined to believe you have started to look in the rear view mirror which many of our age do. And the road is llittered with our errors.

    Unlike you, I am thrilled some young outsiders want to take on the task of cleaning up our mess. They know the price. The better ones kmow their way around the party to get things done. On one hand we have a male candidate with local knowledge and profile. On the other hand we have a candidate with lots of practical busoness experience mixed with an intricate knowledge of the party and the players. What other candidate had Peter MacKay host an evening g for them? What candidate has 5 generations of family tie to the area? What other candidate has serious business experience outside of politics that is willing to bring this experience to bear on the issues both here and across Canada? What other candidate has worked across Canada and beyond our borders?
    You have correctly noted the monkey syndrome. It does not have to be that way with the right minds in caucus.
    The future of PSM and Canada depends on bright young minds at the helm. Those same minds must have been stressed in real life situations that we as a country face. A knowledge of local politics will help with local issues. The reach and capabilities of our candidate will determine their future in cabinet. Mayor is a revered title locally – and it should be. But Vice Preident of a national CA firm and board member of a seious Toronto bastion of Tories will carry them further. This blended with a lifelong association with our area will break the glass ceiling that is being touted by the other federal candidate.

    We worked well on hospital expansion issues in our past lives. I am hopeful these views will give you food fore thought. This is an important fork in the road for PSM PCs . Do we try to continue with history or do we look for someone who can truly represent PSM and also Canada on the world stage. With the right candidate , we will get there.
    It is time for.the youth to put their the wheel to plan for their own future.
    I am optimistic this can happen. Let’s have that next burger and beer and chat about this issue….

  4. John K. Davis on

    I disagree with some of Mr. Mackenzie’s thoughts about backbenchers. Although many seem no different than train seals, they can and do, play a very important part in our democracy. Members of Parliament sit on important committees with members from other parties sharing their own and their parties respective ideologies, on a number of important issues that either effect us all or are specific to their region. Stan Darling knew this all to well and through his persuasive determination, brought about an agreement on acid rain between the governments of Canada and the USA.
    Politics of today has become one of extremist division, rather than one of negotiation and conciliation. People now equate progressive politics, with who can spend the most money to buy votes with little if any thought on where the funds to maintain them will come from to make them sustainable.

  5. Jim Logagianes on

    Who should we elect if the Liberals and Conservatives have both failed at hiring a firm to
    Implement a payroll system? And now they are considering another new system.
    The cost of this sordid mess is astronomical and totally unnecessary. Do these two main stream parties deserve our confidence after all these years?

  6. Lesley hastie on

    A recent poll commissioned by CBC news found that for nearly two thirds of Canadians taking action on climate change was their top priority.

    The Conservative Party seems to be the only party that does not support action on climate change, which may bode Ill for their chances at the Federal election in October. So voters might want to think carefully about wasting their votes by voting Conservative.

    • Unfortunately, a subsequent question asked if the respondent would be willing to devote $100 per year (specifically to combat climate change)? This query met with a resounding answer in the negative. If we aren’t willing to pay less than our Netflix subscription; in an attempt to reverse the damage, which we have done to our planet and its environment: then 2050 will truly be a revelation (and 2100; completely untenable). And yet seemingly every day, our Premier deals another blow to the environment: Yesterday, he cancelled the charging stations for electric cars that were to be constructed at every En Route service centre. He saves budget money this way; so that he can spend it reimbursing the Beer Store for tearing up a ten-year contract, and challenging the federal carbon tax in court (a case which he is destined to lose). We can only hope that he doesn’t embarrass us further by invoking the notwithstanding Clause again. For shame.

Leave a reply below. Comments without both first & last name will not be published. Your email address is required for validation but will not be publicly visible.