"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated."
I can't say that I know much about Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols. I lifted the line above from one of their songs. It seems to sum up the public attitude toward politicians these days.
As I look at the numerous candidates busting themselves to achieve electoral success in next month's municipal elections I recall former Mulroney Conservative Cabinet Minister John Crosbie. The colourful Newfoundlander is reported to have said:
"If I win, I win. And if I lose, I spare myself untold agony."
Or as Mayor MacIsaac said to me when I was appointed as Ward 5 Councillor for an eight month period.
"Congratulations and condolences."
Yes. It is often thankless work.
In many cases today the public's expectations of politicians has more to do with what you (the elected official) can do for them (the constituent.) Forget the broader public good.
'Get that bus off my street.'
'I'll stop paying my taxes if you don't....'
'Not in my backyard.'
And all politicians, or so the public believes, have become captive to special interest groups. But even this has changed.
Shortly before he died John Munro, veteran Liberal politician, reflected on how the times had changed. Munro noted ruefully:
"Back in the (the seventies) when you talked of special interest groups everyone knew, all parties knew, that you meant the banks and insurance companies. Today special interest means people who are poor."
Yes, they all break promises. Writer, broadcaster Steve Paiken in his book The Life - The Seductive Call of Politics tells a story of a promise not broken.
Nova Scotia Premier John Savage had apparently committed to end the practice of turfing out all civil servants after a change in government. This tradition meant that staff who supported the new government were put in place in virtually all public service positions. Even road crews changed.
Challenged over this new policy at a meeting Savage said:
"I told you I was going to do this."
Then a voice at the back of the room replies:
"You know something, you did. But we didn't fuckin' well believe you."
Paiken again quotes a family member of one much maligned hard working politician:
"Why would you want anyone you love to do this?"
Am I too cynical?