Friday, May 13, 2011

Not to Seek Power

There still remain a couple of weeks before the new 41st Parliament begins to sit, and since wild speculation about what Harper may or may not do with his precious majority would reduce the media to little more than a dog chasing its own tail, they've had to knock over other political rocks to sniff under. From what I've seen in the Globe and Mail and the Star, at least, a lot of mileage seems to be coming from the New Democratic Party's cohort of Quebec MPs, fifty-seven of whom are new to Parliament.

The media's magnifying glass has focused on a few of them in particular - Ruth-Ellen Brousseau, the new MP for Berthier—Maskinongé, has taken a lot of heat over the past few weeks for her Vegas vacation and lack of preexisting connection with her new riding - but in the end, I think this new crop of representatives is one aspect of the Orange Revolution that I actually like. For what may be the first time in modern Canadian history, a significant chunk of the House of Commons will be occupied by people who did not set out to be politicians at all. I recall reading that Brousseau agreed to put her name on the ballot as a favor to a friend; these people certainly didn't expect to be the beneficiaries of a voter revolt against the Bloc. Yet they have.

What I like about this is simple - I have always agreed with the notion that the best person to give power is the one who did not want it and did not seek it. Considering that a lot of these new-minted MPs not only didn't campaign in their ridings but in several cases had never even visited them, it's safe to say that they definitely didn't seek this kind of responsibility. A lot of these new MPs are not so much politicians as they are average people who stumbled into the House of Commons.

Ten years ago, during my first year of university, my Politics 100 professor said that Parliament should look like a streetcar, in that its membership would ideally be more reflective of the population of Canada and not dominated by rich old white dudes. Sure, we've made strides since 2001, but there's still a way to go. Now we have MPs who were in elementary school when I was hearing this; we have 19-year-old Pierre-Luc Dusseault, not only the youngest MP in Canadian history but possibly one of the youngest MPs in parliamentary history. There are at least seven NDP MPs now who are younger than I am, and who of necessity come to the House with a set of cultural baggage that's entirely different from what likely predominates on the other side of the aisle.

It's a shame that this didn't end up as another Conservative minority government; the NDP would have had an unparalleled opportunity to test its strength in a situation where the Conservatives could not just ignore them. But if Ottawa is broken, as the NDP circulars tend to say, we're not going to fix it by electing the same old breed of professional politician again and again and again.

Someone should really patch that up.

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