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Politician is not a dirty word

When I was adopted by Bill and Lucy Pike in 1962, I moved from the digs of my first 10 days at St. Mary’s Memorial Hospital to their beautiful home just up the road in Stratford.

Not only had I fallen for their tricks of love and luxury, but I had a voice at town hall as my new father was a councilor (then known as an alderman, with emphasis on man) and the presidentman (in case you missed it in the first title) of Industry and Publicity.

I asked my father a lot of questions before he died nearly 30 years ago, but I still regret not asking him why he ran for city council. So I asked my mother a few years ago what she remembered about their conversations or the issues that made him become politically involved. There were none, or certainly none that he shared with her.

“He just came home one day and said he was a candidate,” she recalled. (Signal mad men Don Draper, embracing his wife in lipstick apron, cigarette in one hand, pouring a drink with the other.)

Regardless of his opinion or his own explanations, my father entered municipal politics. To top it off, he won and held a seat for a few terms and his name remains on a bridge over the River Avon.

My father’s career in the political arena confirms what former BC Premier Christy Clark said about how easily men enter a race, No second chance, a podcast about the 12 women in Canada who have served as prime ministers.

Clark says the men basically go for a drink after work, give their opinion at the bar for half an hour, and someone says, “You should get into politics.” The guy doesn’t doubt it for a minute. The next day, he submits his papers to become a candidate.

It is not so with women. It takes a lot of conviction. It’s never a good time with women, who often take care of children, or aging parents, or both. There are doubts about dignity to overcome, stemming from decades of systemic sexism promoting men as the first, only, and now, most appropriate choice for the political arena.

Add to that, every election season looks exponentially worse for women, gender-diverse and queer candidates when it comes to overt misogyny, homophobia or transphobia, whether on social media, outdoor signage or at their faces knocking on doors.

Resetting Normal: Gender, Intersectionality and Leadership, a 2021 report by the Canadian Women’s Foundation notes that although women make up more than half of Canada’s population, men dominate seats in the House of Commons at 71%. A record eight seats are currently filled by 2SLGBTQ+ identified members.

Whether easily swayed by a drink and a stranger in a bar, or reluctantly won over by a team of like-minded people looking for legitimate and impactful ways to create change for the better, a person who chooses to Being “professionally involved in politics, in particular as an incumbent or candidate for elected office”, is today on the career path of a politician.

Politician is not a dirty word. The way one rolls one’s eyes when the syllable “tish” is spoken too much usually reveals one’s feelings about “pawla-TISH ions”.

To be a politician was to exercise a noble profession according to Aristotle. Indeed, it is a good and noble path, when it is taken by people committed to the public good, and with the desire to improve the conditions of the people they represent.

The one who sought to be elected on Monday is on the path to a potential career in which he will have access to the levers of power for the good of the commons. Each of us is responsible for who we meet around our council tables and it’s not too late to be an informed voter. This too is a noble appeal to the good of the commons.