Politics and perception

Recent political controversies colour (or confirm) our perception of politics and public life.

It wasn’t a particularly good week for politicians in Canada.

What began with the summary expulsion of three senators over their alleged misuse of taxpayer money last week, ended with a drunken rant from the admitted crack-smoking mayor of Canada’s largest city.

The Senate scandal crawled to an uninspired end on Tuesday after dominating headlines for weeks. All but one Conservative senator voted to expel the three, but not before enough muck had been thrown to spatter both the upper and lower house. Aside from the allegation of spending impropriety and outright fraud, there were counter claims that the office of the Prime Minister knew more than it was saying.

Adding to the debate were accusations the Conservatives were running roughshod over judicial process by expelling the senators before an official investigation into their conduct was complete.

Stephen Harper, who evidently believes that what the prime minister giveth can be taken away, was unrepentant in his handling of the mess. At the Conservative annual convention in Calgary he rejected any and all criticism.

Not all Canadians were as confident in his rectitude.

But just as Tory senators swung the axe (taking out some of the sting by allowing the ousted trio to keep their medical benefits), the story was bumped from the front page.

It was replaced by the train wreck that is Rob Ford.

After months of denying the existence of a video purporting to show the Toronto mayor smoking crack, the video emerged.

The initial angry denials were soon replaced by an admission and an apology – lots of apologies. But no sooner had the late-night talk show hosts warmed up their monologues, another video emerged, this one showing Ford in an apparent drunken rage.

More apologies.

Coincidentally, Ford’s travails came as Montrealers were electing a new mayor to replace the previous two who left under a cloud of corruption allegations.

All this, of course, has little impact on Chilliwack, except to fill the evening newscasts.

But it does colour (or confirm) our perception of politics and public life.

And that is unfortunate. The vast majority of people in public office are honourable and dedicated to the well being of their constituents.

But like the plane that lands safely, the politicians and public servants who do their job well, never make the headlines.