Labour market in politics

Recent labour market studies show that new entrants to the job market should be prepared to change employment

Recent labor market studies show that new entrants to the job market should be prepared to change employment at least five times until their retirement if they are lucky, and many times more if they are not.

That picture constitutes quite a contrast with our political establishment, it seems.

With the 2015 elections now in sight, at least two area MPs have already declared they would stand again and it is likely that an overwhelming majority of the current MPs will do so, too.

Last week, Minister of Justice Peter MacKay has announced a new legislative initiative. While the legislative initiative is something that merits some discussion, the announcement provoked some curiosity into the background of the minister, himself.

He has filled four ministerial posts since his first cabinet appointment in 2006, including such important portfolios as foreign affairs and defense.

The divergence of those ministerial appointments show that to be a long lasting politician, one does not really have to develop any expertise in any field because it is apparently not required.

Although many people take it for granted that a politician can be elected again and again, there is room for a meaningful discussion as to whether that should be the case.

In simpler terms, the question is whether politics should be accepted as a career pathway.

An online dictionary describes career as “an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework.”

In the case of most politicians, “followed as one’s life work” perfectly fits the definition. As for the part that says “especially one requiring special training,” there is probably a little bit of confusion there as most of our MPs and MLAs sometime take on assignments that have little to do with their higher education and expertise, if any.

If you ask them, most politicians will say that they are working to serve the people (electorate), to improve their lives and wellbeing.

But just look at the latest announcement made on Monday by the leader of the provincial opposition Danielle Smith on the $1.3 million payout in severance and vacation payments to senior staff who resigned alongside the former premier Alison Redford. How do these outrageous benefits serve the electorate?

And let’s just refresh our memories with regard to the scandals surrounding Conservative senators who billed their personal spending totaling tens of thousands of dollars to taxpayer-funded Senate accounts.

Now, with so many MPs determined to stand again in next year’s elections, and some, like Eve Adams, reportedly resorting to bullying tactics just to secure a seat in the next parliament, it is fair to conclude that being an MP means being employed in a secure and long-term fashion, in some cases long enough to last until retirement if one keeps relations warm enough with the party leader.

With good salary and retirement conditions, lots of benefits and allowances for the incumbents, how realistic is it to expect that our political establishment might get some new blood in the next election?

Or is our political system beginning to resemble those establishments where those who applaud the party leader longest get the best of the positions in parliament and in government?

If one looks around, there are some good examples in northern Europe where politicians are limited to serving in elected positions for only two terms. Incidentally, those countries are also listed at the top of the countries known for clean governance and lack of corruption.

There is a great punch line at the end of the movie “Man of the Year”, starring Robin Williams and I quote: “Politicians are like diapers, they should be changed frequently and for the same reason.”