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08 October, 2011

POLITICS: IT IS POSSIBLE TO WIN BY LOSING

I have always been of the opinion that politics, more often than not, is a thankless, nasty business.  Politicians are constantly open to criticism, not only from opposition party members but from their own constituents as well.  They are damned if they do and damned if they don't.  They can never do enough to meet the demanding expectations of a growing number of interest groups seeking funding from the seemingly bottomless public purse.

This was never more evident to me than this past Thursday evening in my riding of Huron Bruce.

The mood grew sombre as supporters and volunteers watched the voting numbers begin to trickle in at what was to have been MPP Carol Mitchell's election night celebration party in Clinton.  Mitchell, who has been in politics for 18 years, eight in provincial legislature, was defeated in a true upset by a fresh-faced Progressive Conservative candidate Lisa Thompson.

IN HAPPIER TIMES
MPP for Huron Bruce as well as serving as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in the McGuinty government, Mitchell travelled extensively throughout her riding as MPP and throughout the province as a Cabinet Minister.   I never met the woman and I did not vote for her this time around, but from my vantage point she was a diligent and conscientious representative of the people.  As both an MPP and cabinet minister she would have sacrificed much of her personal life in carrying out a very demanding mandate.  There had to be a toll on her in terms of stress and strain.  With her disappointing fate sealed Thursday night, a pale and grim-faced Mitchell gave a brief statement to the media in her campaign office and then with a dismissive good riddance sweep of the hand, asked them to leave before she spoke with her supporters and volunteers, many of whom were visibly shaken by the upset.

I cannot begin to imagine how devastating it must be to have tangible evidence that there are at least ten thousand people out there in your constituency who do not like what you stand for.  Think of the damage that would do to one's confidence, pride and sense of self-worth.  Dreams and aspirations dashed in an election that drew less than 50 percent of eligible voters.

Mitchell was definitely the victim of the "we need a change" movement which seemed to prevail in Huron Bruce.  The public can be very fickle in that way.  She also ran afoul of a doctors lobby that was not satisfied with conditions in the emergency department at the hospital in Southampton, despite a $1 million infusion by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to help keep the ED functioning.  It did not help, too, that in her capacity as agriculture minister she choose to reinforce a commitment to the farm community by attending the International Plowing Match in Prescott instead of an all-candidates meeting in Saugeen Shores where the doctors were lined up to bombard her with questions.


She did not realize it on Thursday night, but once the hurt and disappointment wears off, she will no doubt be a lot better off out of politics where she can start living her life for herself for the first time in eight years.  No demands.  No expectations.  No more potential for criticism from a public that does not understand, or care, that she did her best under difficult circumstances to be all things to all people.

I hope that there are sufficient supporters close to Carol Mitchell who will support and console her over the course of her difficult and painful transition to private life.  She will need that.

Ego aside, you could not pay me enough to expose myself to the life of a politician today.  My hat is off to those who do.

Good luck to Lisa Thompson!  She'll need it

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