Anybody who’s thrown so much as a passing glance toward us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke knows that we kind of rankle at the hurled derision of the ‘career politician’ taunt. We happen to think, done well, politics can be a noble profession, and one which need not be subject to some arbitrary time line. New blood does not inherently mean good or better blood. It’s just new.
But I will tell you that Councillor Raymond Cho is severely testing our laissez-faire attitude on this issue.
One day – ONE DAY! – after coming in 3rd in the June 12th provincial vote, Councillor Cho registered to run for re-election in October’s municipal election. Looking at the councillor’s history, you might conclude that he’s spent a lot of his career trying to get out of City Hall. He ran federally for the New Democratic Party in 1988 and then federally again in 2004 as an independent Liberal candidate. This time around, he took a stab at it as a Progressive Conservative candidate.
Having now run under the banner of a party with perhaps one of the most anti-urban agendas in recent memory, Councillor Cho blithely intends to return to municipal office as Ward 42 Scarborough-Rouge River incumbent. No hard feelings, eh guys? It’s not like I was a conservative in anything but name only, OK?
I’d probably be more forgiving if the councillor had done much of any significance this past term. At the start, just after Rob Ford became mayor, Cho was a bit of a thorn in Team Ford’s side. More like a pesky annoyance, really. But as the province lumbered toward a general election, Councillor Cho saw another exit opportunity and after securing the riding nomination, he just sort of faded into the woodwork. His most notable achievement ended up being to join with 8 other Scarborough councillors and derail plans to bring the LRT to their part of the city.
At least one of his opponents in the recent provincial campaign, the NDP’s Neethan Shan, had the decency to wait a week before throwing his name into the municipal campaign, registering to also run in Ward 42 Scarborough-Rouge River against Councillor Cho.
Frankly, that news doesn’t sit much better with me.
I know that there’s a lot of overlap between the provincial and municipal governments. In many ways, they are inter-dependent. It’s not unusual to see the same names vying for a position at both levels. Hell, 3 of Scarborough’s 5 Liberal MPPs are former Toronto city councillors and a fourth was a school board trustee in the city.
Still, Mr. Shan’s quick entry into the municipal race strikes me as something a budding politician might do in search of public office. Doesn’t care where, Queen’s Park or City Hall, as long as it’s an office. And public. I’ll be very surprised if he’s the only unelected, unsuccessful provincial candidate who tosses his hat into the municipal campaign ring before its September deadline.
This kind of campaign juggling strikes me as lacking a certain commitment to, I don’t know, a cause. A passion for politics, maybe, but generalized, unfocussed. The thing that motivates you should dictate the level of government you aim for. International affairs or development? Federal. As a school board trustee, Kathleen Wynne has said it was the Mike Harris attacks on education that pushed her into provincial politics.
That might be too harsh or over-simplified. One of my favourite city councillors, Gord Perks, first ran for public office at the federal level. There’s obviously something to be said about learning the ropes of the campaign trail, taking it on the chin a few times before getting it right.
But, in the end, if a candidate is fortunate enough to win an election, there should be some passion for the office they step into. I’d be much more content with a city councillor who’s something of a lifer because they love the job they do and are good at it than someone just passing through municipal politics as a stepping stone to where the real power lies. That’s self-serving not public serving.
And it’s the kind of thing that gives career politicians a bad name.
— testily submitted by Cityslikr