Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Quebec NDP: The Kids [Could Be] All Right

Monday was an exciting night for Quebec university NDP clubs, as a number of members of their executives were elected to the House of Commons, amidst a wave that elected NDP members in almost 80% of Quebec's ridings (on the strength of about 43% of the province's popular vote, although that's a subject for a different post). Since that day, news sites, Twitter and Facebook have been aflame with commentary and angry retorts regarding the issues of the youth, experience, and suitability for office of these newly-elected MPs.

To the vitriolic partisans on both sides of this issue, I say a pox on both your houses. Everybody has to start somewhere in politics, and many, many members of parliament (and indeed leaders of some major political parties) have been thrust into political office with no prior political experience. In many cases, this is what people find "fresh" about them. Many are elected at a young age, in their mid-20s, and seem to settle into the position without much difficulty. In both cases, they often stumble a bit as they get their footing, and many settle into the job quite nicely. Others don't, and our current House of Commons has many examples of "veterans" who were initially elected at a variety of ages who I'd argue are not fit to hold elected office. So this lack of experience is not necessarily a problem at all, and it's a cheap attack ploy when these individuals have not yet had a chance to prove themselves. It's particularly hollow and bitter coming from Liberal partisans, because they barely held on to less than half of their seats, electing very few rookies at all.

But to the NDP partisans who have been on their high horse about this issue, a little less self-righteous posturing would be appreciated. Many of these candidates were placeholder candidates. They knew it, Jack Layton knew it, and you know it. And they got lucky. So now the best line of argument is to make the case that they should be given a fair shot. But pretending that it is invalid to question and closely examine the credentials and political positions of people who were probably not closely scrutinized by the party when they agreed to run as the sacrificial lamb in the riding - to collect the $1.75 subsidy and reinforce claims to national party status - rings false to those on the outside. How about a bit more honesty? Admit that some of these people were not necesarily ideal picks with perfect qualifications, but make the case for their capacity to prove themselves despite their surface-level lack of experience and perceived lack of aptitude for public office.

I imagine that out of the current crop of rookie MPs, some will distinguish themselves. But at least a few others will likely be disastrous and make some serious media gaffes. It might be better to admit this earlier on in the process and perhaps earn a slight reprieve from the circling journalistic vultures when the inevitable first set of mistakes occur.

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