The Accidental Citizen?

Deciding to Run: Motivations

Every candidate had different motivations for saying yes, and the reasons they gave for why they accepted were as varied as their lives and careers.

Some considered politics as a way to solve complex problems they believed couldn’t be adequately addressed by business or private philanthropy alone. “I saw the potential that if you did get elected, there’s a lot you could do,” said one MP. Another remarked, “You get chances in public life that you really don’t get in private life. Say I retired as a head of the biggest company in Canada and been given the golden handshake. I could say, ‘Let me now do my big gesture.’ It’s pretty rare that you get that chance. But in public life, you get chances like that.”

Pursuing public office was also seen as a way to learn and grow as professionals and as citizens. “I needed a bigger challenge [than I was getting in my current job and] was concerned that if you got bored you could become [professionally] negligent,” one MP said. “[As an immigrant], it was my payback to Canada,” said another. Several members of the Bloc viewed the experience as good training for the day when Quebec would achieve sovereignty.

Others had a general belief that the system was moving in the wrong direction: several believed that the link between government and citizens was broken, and that Prime Ministers, red or blue, acted “more like dictators.” Others had aspirations for more specific and sometimes radical reform, including changes to our electoral system, to our Senate, or in the case of the Bloc, to the very structure of our federation.

Some were more obvious contenders. A number had already entered the political arena, serving in municipal or provincial governments, and wanted to challenge themselves at the next level. “I am up for a challenge, I love when people wave a [matador’s] big red cape in front of me because, of course, I want to charge at it,” said one former MP. Others took the plunge into federal politics out of a sense of service. One MP, who had retired from a provincial seat several years earlier, said, “It wasn’t that I was craving to get back [into public life] at all. It was more or less a duty, an obligation, a favour.”

Some were intrigued by the opportunity that a run for office represented. “I just wanted to see some change, to see people not just take [things] for granted,” said one. A few others were more light-hearted. “My mother dropped me on my head as a baby,” one joked. “I was a 46-year-old child who still thought they could save the world,” said another.

The Accidental Citizen?