The Premier of Ontario is in court today. Kathleen Wynne should be embarrassed by that. But she probably isn’t.
Wynne is a witness in what essentially is a corruption trial involving her political party. It is alleged that inducements were offered to a potential candidate to stand aside so that the party’s preferred nominee could run. I expect Wynne to give a textbook lesson in slick talking, explaining why black is really white and it is all a big misunderstanding. Don’t pay attention to the audio tapes introduced as evidence.
To a lay person it seems pretty open and shut, but I expect an acquittal. It looks to me like a case of behavior that is morally wrong but doesn’t quite cross the line that would make it illegal.
That is probably true for the other ongoing trial Wynne’s government is involved in, where political operatives from the premier’s office have been charged over some deleted emails involving the moving of two about to be constructed gas plants to new locations. The cost to the taxpayers was about a billion dollars, but it has been suggested that the move was done purely to win a couple of close ridings in an election. Once again, I expect the finding to be that no laws were breached, just bent, and bending the law, though morally questionable, does not result in jail time.
There have been issues at the federal level too. Canadians were transfixed at the trial of Senator Mike Duffy, who faced 31 criminal charges over his expense account. There is no doubt that his actions appeared to breach the moral test, but he was found not guilty on all counts.
I could go on with other examples, and I won’t go south of the border to look at some current American examples of politicians who have lost their moral compass. Because that is really what it boils down to. We have a crisis in political leadership, whether we want to admit it or not.
We need a new breed of politicians, ones who understand that there is more to leadership than winning elections, men and women who understand that following the law is not the maximum that can be expected of those in public office, but the bare minimum. We need people who are willing to lead by example, who understand that there is at times a huge difference between what is legal and what is right.
That means we need to nominate and elect candidates who have shown in their pre-politics days to be persons of integrity. People aren’t likely to change overnight or suddenly have an epiphany that it is wrong to use political life for personal advantage as it seems so many do these days. They call it public service not because you are in the public eye, but because you are supposedly working for the benefit of society, not yourself or your political party. I think many people have forgotten that.
If we paid more attention to people and not parties we might wind up with a better class of politician. The next time you go to cast a ballot, do your research beforehand. Vote for the person, not the party, and make sure you know what makes that person tick, what their values and beliefs are and what drives them to seek public office. If we elect people who understand that service is a calling and ethics are not optional, we may just wind up with better government.
As for Kathleen Wynne, as she explains today how no inducements were offered because the person being asked to step aside was not officially a candidate therefore the law doesn’t apply, I hope she at least blushes at her own words. But I don’t expect it. After all, she is confident she did nothing wrong. And that is the problem.