Does Character Matter?

We turn from Wednesday’s look at the US presidential election to the ongoing Canadian federal campaign. With voting day now less than three weeks away, what are the issues that will have an impact on the results?

If we want good government, it would make sense to elect good people. From that you would think that character matters. But does it?

The current Prime Minister has been found twice to have violated the government’s ethics guidelines. Does it matter? Should voters care?

His predecessor’s government, a different party, was found in contempt of Parliament, the first time in Canadian history for such a thing. The voters took that into consideration as they awarded him his first (and only) majority government. (From that I inferred it wasn’t that Canadians didn’t care about character, but they considered the contempt motion in a minority parliament to be politically tainted.)

On the surface it looks like people don’t care. But they should.

If we want good government, doesn’t it make sense to elect people who will act with a certain amount of integrity, both in their personal and public lives? If we choose rogues and scoundrels, we will get the government we asked for. Even though we may not have realized what we were asking.

I am somewhat partisan in my politics, as anyone who knows me will attest. But that doesn’t mean I blindly vote for the party or person right or wrong.

Many times I have voted for the best local candidate, even if I didn’t agree with all their policy proposals. I figure if they are people of integrity I could perhaps persuade them on some issues (or maybe they would persuade me their view was right). I would rather independent thinkers in government that I don’t always agree with than trained seals who bark at the leader’s command.

Since I am not going to get partisan here I won’t mention names. In the Parliament that just ended, that we are looking to replace in the current election campaign, I had a fair amount of respect for a number of MPs from all parties. Some I had met, others I just knew by reputation. Sometimes, good people can support what I see as bad policies.

I think what I am doing here is pleading with you. When you are faced with electoral choices, do your research. Find out about the candidates. Meet them. Ask them about their lives and families. What draws them to public service? How do they handle disagreement? What will the impact of their policies be? What parts of their party’s platform do they disagree with?

I can’t think of a time when I hadn’t met the person whose name I was placing an X beside on the ballot. I’ve voted for candidates from the main parties and fringe parties. Sometimes my vote is in protest, sometimes in hope, but always for integrity.

Will you do the same when you mark your ballot?

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