This by-election is going to get a lot of attention.
Voters in Toronto Centre have already got the country’s attention for their upcoming clash of the commentariat. Three high-profile journalists — Chrystia Freeland, Jennifer Hollett and Linda McQuaig — are bidding to be the new member of Parliament to replace longtime office holder Bob Rae in arguably the most left-leaning riding in the country.
Freeland, a respected international journalist who recently returned to Canada, wants to be Liberal candidate. McQuaig, a Toronto Star columnist with unabashed leftist views, and Jennifer Hollett, a broadcast journalist and one-time MuchMusic host, are competing for the New Democrat nod.
Some, no doubt, will regard the contest cynically — well-known journalists capitalizing on celebrity status to win public office. Certainly there is that possibility; substantive policy issues and ideological differences could be ignored in an obsession with who’s got the greater celebrityhood. But the non-cynical reality is that three people are willing to set aside successful careers, at least temporarily, and with the best of intentions offer themselves for public office.
That is a tough thing to do. Deservedly or not, politicians are held in low esteem nowadays, to put it mildly. It takes courage to step into the public arena where your character, intelligence and motives are subject to ruthless scrutiny and not infrequent attack. Not everybody is willing to do this, and those who are deserve applause. If good people don’t seek political office, bad people will (to borrow a line from Plato).