Why Sensible People Don’t Become Members of Parliament

So what do you think of your MP? Odds are: not much.

I don’t mean that you have a low opinion of your member of Parliament. I do mean that whatever she or he does, doesn’t occupy a significant chunk of your waking time. (Unless of course you work in politics, which is a different matter entirely.)

I mention this because this recent matter of two ex-Liberal MPs should be giving the politically-engaged a bit of pause. Rex Murphy is of the opinion that the investigations process should have been made public. I honestly think such a move would have made matters worse.

First, it would have meant identifying the two female NDP members who made the accusations. The consequence of this would be that reporters would be assigned to profile and get background information on these two — and, because they are public figures (even more so because of this “open” nature of the investigation), their private lives would have been invaded. The media might apologize afterwards, but the damage would already be done.

Second, it would also mean the doings of both accused and accusers, past and present, would be fodder for the social media crowd. As a Facebook user I was startled by the sheer vitriol that popped up in my newsfeed against the dental students of Dalhousie University, when that “gentlemen’s page” scandal erupted. Since we’re talking about elected officials paid by the national taxpayer, I’d expect the vitriol to be at least ten times worse, fuelled by the more immature partisans out there.

Third, even though this involved only members of the Opposition, it’s all too easy to see this as a trap for Tory MPs, who would be tempted to make some smug remark about relative morality. Which is all the excuse the media needs to pounce on their lives, with every communal trip to the pub potentially magnified as the activities of an incipient alcoholic, every misstep torqued into potentially criminal misbehaviour.

Do you think it can’t happen? More to the point, would you trust our media, both commercial and social, to be responsible about handling this information?

I suppose it’s only natural that, when we elect our political representatives, we sort of expect them to be paragons of virtue. We take it for granted that they know how to behave in public, and that their private behaviour is scrupulously correct.

What we do forget, though, is that MPs, because they represent us, the great unwashed masses, are also human. And that, despite all their training in childhood and their education and whatever vows they took concerning their profession or their family lives, they can yield to temptation. They can fail, and fail badly. Ted Kennedy and Chappaquidick is the worst example I can think of. And today’s media environment, with its incessant opinion-spouting and rush to instantaneous judgement, means the consequences of a fall can be long-lasting, devastating in proportion to the actual transgression — and a deterrent to those people who could contribute something significant to the political debate, but are confronted by a high-and-increasing personal cost.

We need mechanics and engineers and physicians and, yes, academics to be in Parliament; we’re not going to get them if they feel that Big Brother has put them on a tightrope and expects them to do cartwheels on it 24/7.

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About phantomobserver

I'm a professional librarian currently working in Ottawa, Ontario.
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One Response to Why Sensible People Don’t Become Members of Parliament

  1. Nathan B. says:

    Hmm. I think things are exactly opposite.

    The dental students in question at Dalhousie joked about using the tools of medicine to rape women, and we have proof of this. As would-be future medical professionals, these grown men saw the proper place of women in society as nothing better than tools of reproduction. I strongly disagree there: they deserved every bit of vitriol they got, and I don’t think things went anywhere near far enough. They all should have been expelled, except the whistle-blower. I certainly wouldn’t want them treating my female family members.

    I also disagree about what happened to the two Liberal MP’s. Basically, their reputations are now in tatters because of the accusations of anonymous women to the media. That does not sound like justice or due process to me. Furthermore, one of the NDP women said that she “had sex without her consent” with one of the Liberals, even though she admitted not only not saying “no,” but to actively providing a condom. Consent in sex needs to be actively given by both parties, but it is not always given with words–and the provision of a condom in most cases would certainly indicate consent. As a regular NDP voter, I am disappointed in the NDP for how it has handled this.

    I do think Justin Trudeau was right to jettison both Liberal MP’s, but the process should have been more transparent and fair.

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