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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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May the best person win

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Once again, we’re in the midst of election fever. This week’s U.S. presidential vote featured two distinct visions for America, and Israel became a major issue in the campaign. Soon Israelis will also head to the polls, and with the recent announcement by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty that he is stepping down, a provincial election may soon follow.

As I watched some of the U.S. debates, my favourite part was the “truth checker” on one of the networks, where candidate statements were checked against the actual truth. To the surprise of no one, not every claim made by those wanting to be president of the United States was actually true. While I believe that most politicians enter politics to serve the public, something about the culture of politics makes it increasingly difficult to be successful while simultaneously being dedicated to the principal that “the signature of God is truth.”

To some extent – though to one much less than is the current norm – we can excuse politicians for their liberal definition of the truth when speaking. But what’s inexcusable is to act against the public good for political gain. Such appears to be the case in Ontario, where the premier prorogued the legislature and thus avoided any further investigation into the cancellation of planned gas-fired power plants just before the last election. Those cancellations helped secure seats for his party, but ended up costing hundreds of millions, and possibility billions, of taxpayer dollars.

Of course there may be another explanation – the one above is touted by the opposition parties, who themselves may stretch the truth – but by refusing to deal with the issue, it does give much credence to such claims. Such politically motivated decisions are, sadly, par for the course.

It’s for this reason that the recent death of James Coyne garnered so much news coverage. Coyne was appointed head of the Bank of Canada in 1955 and was forced to resign in 1961 after refusing to rubber-stamp the monetary polices of then-prime minister John Diefenbaker. Coyne’s principled stand helped ensure the independence of the bank. It’s sad that it’s often those people who don’t need to be elected by the public who can display the most integrity.

A recent news article noted how when Mark Carney, the current governor of the Bank of Canada, makes a promise, markets can rely on it, something they might not be able to do when an elected official makes a similar statement.

Our political leaders should be moral leaders first and foremost, and in this instance, morality shouldn’t be equated with one’s religious beliefs, but rather with one’s personal character. And (perhaps sadly) the correlation between the two is often quite negligible.

Whether one is pro life or pro choice, or whether one favours same-sex marriage or not, seems to me less important than whether those running for public office are people to whom truth, integrity, fairness and the ability to put the common good ahead of their own personal interest are paramount.

Let’s literally hope that the best person wins.

Send comments to rabbijay@torahinmotion.org.

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