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The MP to mayor pipeline: Why so many provincial and federal politicians are heading to city hall

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Poke your head into any city hall across the country, and there’s a chance you’ll find a former MP or member of the provincial legislature sitting in the mayor’s chair.

Recent municipal elections in B.C., Ontario and Manitoba saw scores of seasoned politicians making the jump — or the return — to the local level.

Andrea Horwath is among them. The former Ontario NDP leader is the newly elected mayor of Hamilton, Ont.

­”Certainly I had accomplishments that really did affect all of Ontario, as an opposition leader,” she told CBC Radio’s The House. ­”But the municipal order of government really is the closest to the people.”

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Horwath is one of at least a dozen politicians in Ontario alone who previously held provincial or federal seats and last week won their race to become mayor.

 

CBC News: The House8:11Why are so many federal and provincial politicians moving into the mayor’s chair?

CBC’s Emma Godmere speaks to newly elected mayors and experts about why so many provincial and federal politicians are making the leap to municipal politics.

But why are so many political veterans taking their talents to the local level?

“I understand that folks may have some cynicism,” Horwath said.

“It’s not that you’re in it for any kind of personal aggrandizement or personal agenda. You’re in it to serve your community.”

‘People have a real stake in you:’ former Calgary mayor

According to one of Canada’s best-known former mayors, there’s simply no better gig around.

“It is the only political job in Canada — the only executive level political job in Canada — where you are actually elected by everyone you serve,” said Naheed Nenshi, who served as mayor of Calgary for just over a decade.

“The prime minister is not directly elected, premiers are not directly elected, but the mayor is,” he explained. “Because of that, people have a real stake in you.”

Naheed Nenshi speaks to the media the day after being elected as mayor of Calgary in October 2010. ‘[Mayor] is the only political job in Canada — the only executive level political job in Canada — where you are actually elected by everyone you serve,’ he said. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Even if voters recognize that stake, some might expect mayors to become MPs — and not the other way around.

“I think we’re actually very wrong to see politics as this kind of progression, of city council being the minor leagues and then provincial and federal politics somehow being the major leagues,” said Shannon Sampert, a political analyst and columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Sampert — who just helped guide new Winnipeg mayor Scott Gillingham’s campaign to victory — is also quick to push back on the idea that politicians hopping from campaign to campaign could be looked down upon.

“I think that we need to think that being a career politician isn’t necessarily bad,” she said. “I think you have a best-before date … constituents will let you know when they’re sick of you as well.”

MPs can face long periods away from home, election uncertainty

Former Conservative MP Alex Nuttall, just elected mayor of Barrie, Ont., is one of several federal representatives who chose to leave Ottawa and switch to municipal politics. Previously a Barrie city councillor, he was first elected MP in 2015 but declined to run again in 2019, opting to spend more time with his family.

“When I made that decision, it was one that I didn’t take lightly,” he told The House.

Nuttall’s father recently dug up an old hockey card from when the mayor-elect was 13 years old.

“And on the back of my hockey card, my future ambitions were to become a member of Parliament.”

Nuttall admits that dream job came with plenty of challenges.

“When you’re elected as a member of Parliament, and really any position — it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle, right? It’s most severe on the federal level,” Nuttall explained.

“I was lucky. I was only a five-hour trip to Ottawa from Barrie. But there were lots of folks who, it’s 12 hours for them to get from their home to Parliament Hill. And you know, that has a humongous effect on family life.”

Ken Boshcoff, right, is congratulated by a supporter after winning the mayoral race in Thunder Bay, Ont., earlier this month. (Marc Doucette/CBC)

Ken Boshcoff remembers those personal impacts well. The newly elected mayor of Thunder Bay, Ont., held the job before, back in the 1990s, before becoming a Liberal MP under the minority governments of Paul Martin and Stephen Harper.

“Every day was the possibility of an election,” Boshcoff told The House.

“You know exactly, right now, when the next municipal elections are — in four years. So it truly makes a difference in terms of stability, and your ability to plan and even act as a human. Whereas in federal Parliament, you certainly wouldn’t be buying a car or a house if you were with the government at that time. It was just not doable.”

Taking the parties out of politics

While remaining an MP comes with obstacles, leaving Parliament Hill can also be difficult for some.

“In our research, we found challenges with transitioning to a non-political career,” said Sabreena Delhon of the Samara Centre for Democracy.

The non-partisan group has spent years holding exit interviews with MPs to get a sense of why many choose to move on from federal politics.

“Once you have been a politician, it’s quite difficult for your community to see you as anything else,” Delhon explained.”So a cynical view might be that there’s this insatiable appetite, a narcissism related to being elected. But it might also be that political life has closed other professional doors for you.”

Nuttall, the mayor of Barrie, said he left a successful business career to return to municipal politics.

“I’ve been very blessed in my private sector career,” he said. “And I’m going back to public service, taking a pay cut, and wanting to contribute.”

The former Conservative MP said it can be easier to make that contribution without the partisanship Parliament often brings.

“You take the political parties out of it, and the reality is that there’s a lot more opportunity for consistency, for continuity on the items that are being worked on.”

Horwath announced her resignation as NDP provincial leader on June 2, 2022, after leading the party through four elections. (Tara Walton/The Canadian Press)

Horwath agrees.

“I have to admit that when I left municipal politics to become an MPP, one of the things I missed the most was that idea that we’re all in it together and we’re all working from the same space, or the same imperative,” she said.

Whether they make the jump for personal reasons or political reasons, former Calgary mayor Nenshi will tell any veteran-politician-turned-mayor that they made the right choice.

“I always joke — and I’ve been doing it for years — that if the federal government disappeared while we were talking, it would be a week or two before anyone noticed … but if your municipal government were to disappear, you’d have no roads, no parks, no transit, no emergency response,” he said.

“The issues that we are working on at the municipal level are the cool ones, the interesting ones. And I think more and more politicians are figuring out — that’s really where it’s at.”

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We need a law against lying in politics

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Of all the lies she’s told in her political career, Danielle Smith’s latest might be the biggest yet. After insisting it was the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) that “asked for us to do a pause” on renewable energy development last year, it turns out the AESO’s CEO was actually opposed to it all along. In an email that came to light through a freedom-of-information request from The Narwhal’s Drew Anderson, AESO CEO Mike Law indicated that he was “not supportive” of the idea. “A ‘closed for business’ message to renewables will be reputationally very challenging for the province,” he wrote.

This is already having a number of potential negative outcomes for Alberta, from the independence of its supposedly independent electricity market operator to the damage this decision is doing to investment in the province. This week alone, TransAlta announced the cancellation of its 300-megawatt Riplinger wind farm in Cardston because of the new provincial regulations and put three additional renewable energy projects on hold.

Sady, this probably won’t negatively impact Smith’s popularity. We’ve come to expect our elected officials will lie to us, and they’ve been more than happy to live up — or down — to that standard. When Pierre Poilievre and his Conservative MPs tell bald-faced lies, whether it’s about the carbon tax or the treatment of drugs in B.C. (they’ve been decriminalized, not “legalized”), most of us — journalists and non-Conservative MPs included — have almost become accustomed to them by now.

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In fairness, the same holds true for the lies being told by those on the other side of the House of Commons, even if they happen with far less frequency. We’re all increasingly numb to the cost of these lies, big and small, and the corrosive impact they have on our political discourse and the decisions that flow from it.

This isn’t unique to Canada, of course. Politicians lie everywhere. But at least one politician is willing to do something about it. Adam Price, a Welsh parliamentarian and former leader of the centre-left Plaid Cymru party, recently tabled an amendment to that country’s broader election reform act proposing that it be made illegal for an elected official or candidate to “wilfully mislead the parliament or the public.” Opinions, beliefs, and other non-factual statements would be exempt from this proposed law that has the support of Wales’ Liberal Democrats and Tories.

This isn’t Price’s first rodeo here. He became famous for trying to impeach former British prime minister Tony Blair for lying about the Iraq war, and he clearly still believes in the importance of politicians telling the truth. “If a doctor lies, they are struck off,” he told CBC’s As It Happens. “If a lawyer lies, they are disbarred. And yet we seem to have tolerated a democratic culture where politicians can lie with impunity. Well, that’s got to stop.”

Donald Trump’s arrival on the political scene in 2016, and his well-documented status as the world’s most voracious liar, created a permission structure for other aspiring liars to test their own limits. So, too, has the decline of conventional media and the rise of a right-wing information ecosystem that holds the truth in nearly as much contempt as the journalists who try to inform it. And while those trends are most visible in American politics, where everything (including the lies and the liars) is bigger, they can clearly be seen in ours as well.

It’s entirely possible such a law would fail to pass constitutional muster in Canada, although, if Poilievre is willing to pre-emptively invoke the charter, then maybe Justin Trudeau could do the same here. But maybe as a first step, his government could establish an officer of Parliament charged with cataloging lying offences and identifying the politicians responsible for them. If former Toronto Star reporter and U.S. fact checker extraordinaire Daniel Dale is looking for an opportunity to return home, this might be the perfect job for him.

The cynics will surely suggest that this wouldn’t have any meaningful impact on our political discourse, much less the natural inclination of politicians to bend the truth of any given situation to their advantage. They might be right. But at a moment where misinformation is more widespread than ever, and where democratic institutions are increasingly coming under attack, we at least ought to have the courage to find out.

 

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Politics: Donald Trump faces off with Stormy Daniels in the New York trial’s latest developments

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This week, Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz discuss Stormy Daniels’s testimony in Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial; marijuana rescheduling; and the media’s role and responsibility in defending democracy.

Here are some notes and references from this week’s show:

Josh Gerstein for Politico: Stormy spoke. Trump fumed. Jurors were captivated – but also cringed.

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Ivana Saric for Axios: Status of Trump’s criminal cases

Li Zhou for Vox: Marijuana could be classified as a lower-risk drug. Here’s what that means.

Sam Tabachnik for The Denver Post: Black market marijuana grows are popping up faster than law enforcement can take them down. But is legalization the cause?

John Ingold for The Colorado Sun: What have we learned about the arguments for and against legalized marijuana in the past 10 years?

Nathaniel Meyersohn for CNN: The dark side of the sports betting boom

C-SPAN: President Biden Remarks at White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Ben Smith for Semafor: Joe Kahn: ‘The newsroom is not a safe space’

Dan Pfeiffer for Message Box: Why Biden Won’t Do a New York Times Interview and A Response to the Editor of the New York Times

Matthew Yglesias and Brian Beutler for the Politix Podcast: The Times, They Aren’t A Changin’

Charles Homans for The New York Times Magazine: Donald Trump Has Never Sounded Like This

Eli Stokols for Politico: The Petty Feud Between the NYT and the White House

Here are this week’s chatters:

Emily: Vision: A Memoir of Blindness and Justice by David S. Tatel

John: Gina Kolata for The New York Times: Locks of Beethoven’s Hair Offer New Clues to the Mystery of His Deafness

David: Randy Yohe for West Virginia Public Broadcasting: W.Va. Gubernatorial Campaign Attack Ads Vilify Transgender Children and Kyndall Cunningham for Vox: The Drake vs. Kendrick Lamar feud, explained

Listener chatter from Justin and Katie in Columbus, Ohio: Keziah Weir for Vanity Fair: The Vatican’s Secret Role in the Science of IVF.

For this week’s Slate Plus bonus segment, David, John, and Emily talk with Emily Lawler, Detroit Free Press. See Emily Lawler for the Detroit Free Press: Voters’ voices in Saginaw CountyJohn Wisely: Legal troubles don’t dampen Trump enthusiasm as he visits Michiganand Paul Egan: As Trump visits, Michigan bellwether Saginaw County is feeling its political juice. See also Arpan Lobo: Michigan lawmaker says ‘illegal invaders’ landed at DTW. They were NCAA basketball teams.

In the latest Gabfest Reads, John talks with David E. Sanger about his new book, New Cold Wars: China’s Rise, Russia’s Invasion, and America’s Struggle to Defend the West.

Email your chatters, questions, and comments to [email protected]. (Messages may be referenced by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Cheyna Roth

Research by Julie Huygen

 

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Barron Trump Is Officially Entering Politics

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Graduation

The former president’s youngest child will serve as a Florida delegate at this year’s Republican National Convention

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Donald Trump’s youngest son is officially making his foray into his family’s political mafia.

The Republican National Convention has selected Barron Trump, the 18-year-old son of the former president, to serve as a delegate for the state of Florida at this year’s GOP presidential nomination convention this summer— where he is expected to vote for his father.

Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is serving as co-chair of the Republican National Committee and, according to a list of delegates obtained by several news outlets, the convention will be a family affair. Three of his adult children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Tiffany Trump, have also been tapped to serve as delegates for their father.

While Trump’s youngest child has been out of the spotlight both during and after his father’s presidency, Trump himself has clearly grown more comfortable leveraging Barron’s name as a political weapon.

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Last month, Trump repeatedly claimed that Judge Juan Merchan — who is overseeing his ongoing criminal hush-money trial — had barred him from attending Barron’s high school graduation ceremony later this month, despite the judge having submitted no such order.

On April 30, Merchan ruled that the court would be excused on May 17 to allow the defendant to attend his son’s graduation. But despite his public griping that securing permission was ever even a question, Trump has already packed the day of his son’s milestone with campaign events. According to Minnesota news station KFGO, Trump will headline the Republican Party of Minnesota’s annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner that same night.

 

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