Gossip Girl here, welcoming you to your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite. Oh wait, wrong show. But think about it, carefully, and you’ll see that our position as legislative interns juxtaposed against the melodrama unfolding on that television show isn’t as distinct as you may think. In any case, I wanted to share with you the latest goings on of my very OLIP kind of life.
It’s hard to imagine finding myself in a more privileged position. All doors are open to me, all politicians are accessible, all journalists are eager to listen; if I close my eyes for a second I get a sense of what life is like for the Premier. But open them again and remove the rose-coloured glasses–the other parts come into focus.
Working this year with wonderful MPPs Michael Prue and Kevin Flynn has taught me many lessons, but perhaps the most revealing has been the question of whether it’s worth it being a politician: I lean towards no — but allow me to explain. It may be a strange answer from someone like me who breathes politics inside and out. What this observation really means to say is that you, dear reader, are the problem. As a non-elected individual of no repute, I include myself in this group. We, the public and the media, do not give our elected representatives the credit they deserve.
I’ve posed the question of how we can rectify this to no less than former Premiers and Prime Ministers—they, too, are stumped. The problem is that the miasma of misperception hovering over legislatures across this country has made it impossible for the general public to connect with politicians on more than a superficial level. It is only after working on the inside that I’ve come to realise how incredibly demanding the job is.
I don’t think we pay MPPs enough. This statement is bound to elicit some measure of controversy. But anyone who knows on a day-to-day basis what the job entails would likely come to a similar conclusion. A former MPP said to me on the subject of compensation for our elected leaders, and I paraphrase, “The amount we pay our politicians creates a strong disincentive for a large swath of the middle class. Based on current levels, two groups of people will be attracted to the job: one group that has so much money that they can afford to do the job at the pay level, and those who can afford to do the job because they’ve never seen that much money before. Both of these groups present a scary proposition for the rest of us.” In a similar vein, I remember another conversation with former Premier Eves, who told the intern group that when he was first elected to the Ontario Legislature his salary was $19,000 a year. I’ll let you in on a secret folks, we, legislative interns, make more than this (though just barely).
Something is rotten in the state of Canada, dear reader. And contrary to what the media will have you believe, it’s not the politicians.