On August 28, Christine Elliott, the widow of Canada’s legendary finance minister Jim Flaherty, announced her immediate resignation as Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP). She was most recently re-elected to represent the riding of Whitby – Oshawa in the Provincial Parliament on June 12, 2014. Ontario’s next election is scheduled for Oct 4, 2018.
For a year, she had been running to succeed Tim Hudak as the new leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. The leadership vote was on May 9 of this year. She lost to Patrick Brown. According to the newspapers, she has not been seen inside the provincial legislature since her defeat. The new party leader Patrick Brown had, apparently, “reached out to her numerous times” but according to The Star, she has only been in text or e-mail communication with him.
In my opinion, by resigning barely a year into her four-year term of office, she is doing the constituents of Whitby – Oshawa a disservice. She was elected to represent them in the provincial legislature until the next election. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, she owes it to her constituents to stick it out. Losing a leadership bid does not count as such a circumstance - becoming party leader would have simply been icing on the cake. There are plenty of MPP’s in Queen’s Park who are able to serve their constituents perfectly well without becoming party leader. I know that she had also recently lost her husband, but as his death - April 10, 2014 - was before last provincial election (June 12, 2014), she had the opportunity to drop out. Her loss also did not prevent her from subsequently seeking party leadership. As a result, she cannot now plead personal grief as an excuse for resigning form politics.
Another example of such behaviour occurred after former Prime Minister Paul Martin lost the 2006 Federal election to Stephen Harper. After the loss, he rarely showed up in Parliament. Then-NDP leader Jack Layton was right when he called Martin out for his selfish behaviour. Because, in spite of his personal setbacks, he still represented the federal riding of LaSalle – Emard until Oct 14, 2008. The good people of LaSalle – Emard deserved better than a sulking, absentee MP. Incidents like this demonstrate that many elected officials care more about their own career prospects and personal vanity than they do in representing their constituents.
The gold standard for how an elected official should behave when he loses comes from former Australian Prime Minister John Howard. He represented the Division of Bennelong the Australian House of Representatives from 1974 to 2007. He was the Australian Prime Minster from 1996 to 2007. He is the second longest serving Australian Prime Minister ever and was elected Prime Minister for four terms. On Dec 3, 2007, he not only lost the election to Labour, but he lost his own seat.
His concession speech was one of the most remarkable I have ever heard. Instead of being downcast and gloomy and bitter, like many, he cheerfully thanked the voters of Australia for the privilege of allowing him to serve the good people of Bennelong and Australia.
It is said that in hardship, the true worth of one’s character comes out. On Dec 3, 2007, John Howard demonstrated that his character was made of gold. Too bad many of our elected representatives are made of less noble stuff.