The most frightening question a Canadian politician can hear isn’t “What are you going to do to earn my vote?” or “How are you going to fix everything?” or even “What’s your position on Israel?”
The most terrifying question is “Do you think you’re better than me?”
By the time people are asking that, they already have a pretty good idea of the answer, and things are not going well for the elected official.
We got to see a truly astounding example of this in action across federal, provincial, and party lines this week.
A whole lot of politicians, it turns out, felt like they had perfectly good reasons to fly abroad during a pandemic in which all Canadians have been told, repeatedly, to curtail non-essential travel.
The fury started in Ontario, where it was revealed that the Conservative finance minister had decided to go for a holiday in ritzy St. Barts.
The outbreak of political stupidity saw its worst superspreader event in Alberta, which as of this writing is up to seven cabinet ministers, MLAs, and senior staffers who have all either resigned or been stripped of their posts and positions.
But there have also been Conservative, Liberal, and NDP MPs and at least one senator who have travelled. The list is up to a dozen or so now, and could grow.
What the heck were they thinking?
In a few cases, they were travelling to see loved ones in hospital, or to attend funerals – and while that’s understandable, how many of their constituents have weighed the risks, considered the warnings, and not gone to a funeral in the last year?
The others – well, for the most part it was vacations. Alberta’s ex-cabinet minister Tracy Allard’s explanation that family trips to Hawaii are a “family tradition” seemed perfectly designed to elicit zero sympathy. Oh, we’re so sorry you might miss out on your traditional tropical vacation, while back home we didn’t even get to gather to exchange presents and eat turkey together!
Canadians have been remarkably united during the pandemic – the vast majority of the country supports distancing, supports financial aid for citizens and businesses, supports masking, and are eager to get the vaccine.
We’ve been told to do our part, and the vast majority of us have.
So politicians shouldn’t be surprised when a non-partisan wave of anger rolls right over them.
And yet they are.
The overlap between “politicians” and “people who think they’re above the rules” isn’t 100 per cent, but it’s higher than average. It takes a bit of an ego to stand up and say “Pick me, pick me, I’m the best person!”
That’s why this outrage is kind of satisfying for me.
We’re scaring them. They’re being demoted, losing posts. This is definitely going to haunt some of them come the next election.
They need to learn the answer to the question “Do you think you’re better than me?” is always, unequivocally, forever, “No, you aren’t.”