The Sunday Edition

A salute to the losers - Michael's essay

Michael pays homage to all the people who ran for political office, even if all the odds were against them .
Liberal Winnipeg South candidate Terry Duguid met with a supporter during a door-to-door canvass. Three previous times, Duguid lost his bid to win a federal seat. He finally triumphed Monday night. (Sara Calnek/CBC)

The call to my friend came at two in the morning. "My brother-in-law has been arrested. He's in jail. What are you gonna do about it?" This was a number of years ago. My friend had recently been elected to the House of Commons. The campaign had been expensive and gruelling. He would be forever more a backbencher. But he had always dreamed of being a member of parliament. What he didn't dream of, was just how hard the job is.

Some 1,792 men and women ran in Monday's election. Only 338 were elected. Some people run in the hopes of perhaps a Cabinet job with clout and celebrity attached. Some are simply too ambitious not to run.

In covering politicians and would-be politicians for decades and decades, those whom I've known ran because they wanted to serve the rest of us. - Michael Enright

 But in covering politicians and would-be politicians for decades and decades, those whom I've known, ran because they wanted to serve the rest of us. They wanted to do good, to change things, to help.

The hours are terrible. For most of them, seven days a week. First time MP or veteran, you are on call virtually all the time. Somebody has lost a passport. Or a job. Somebody's mother is being evicted from a nursing home. Or like the 2 a.m. phone call to my friend, somebody needs a lawyer. The money is good but not great. An MP makes $167,400 a year. Many MPs are lawyers and could make much more in private practice. Aside from constant phone calls from constituents and lobbyists and annoying reporters, there are the speeches, the long hours on airplanes and hours of endless boring debates. To run, you have to put up a $1,000 bond and provide the names of at least 100 electors who support your candidacy. Then the agony and expense of the campaign and at the end that - likely defeat. 

There's a guy in the northern Ontario city of Sault Ste. Marie who can`t remember how many times he has run in federal elections. 
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada lawn sign
Mike Taffarel is a 63-year-old retired steelworker who always runs last. In 2011, he was last in the entire country. On Monday as candidate for the Marxist Leninist Party of Canada, he placed last again with 83 votes. That's 0.2 per cent of the popular vote. Since there aren't more than a handful of Marxist-Leninist enthusiasts in Canada, he knows he will never win. Why bother? Said Mr. Taffarel: "We still have to participate in the process until it's changed eventually, hopefully."

To the haplessly optimistic Mr. Taffarel and all his fellow defeated; in a real sense you are not losers. You offered something real in a democratic process and learned something important in the doing. You stood up and in for the rest of us.


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