June 13, 2010
We are pleased to share the introductory report of Canada's first-ever series of exit interviews with former Members of Parliament.
It's called The Accidental Citizen?, and it sets the stage for a larger series of publications that will share the stories of the MPs who participated in the exit interviews. The title reflects the varied, and often unexpected, ways so many MPs described their journeys to public life. For example:
- Most MPs said they did not plan for a political life. Their backgrounds and motivations were varied and, contrary to stereotypes, MPs are not just lawyers and political scientists.
- Nearly all said they were asked to run for office - a request they described as unexpected.
- Most defined themselves as being outside the established mainstream, despite deep community involvement. Most described coming to Parliament feeling like an outsider.
- The nomination process was a black box: confusing and untransparent. Many MPs described the experience negatively, and they were the ones who were successful.
It is surprising that those who described themselves as "outsiders" were so intimately involved in their communities, and that so many of these MPs claimed not to have actively considered public life before running.
More than anything, these narratives may be telling observations on our political culture. Perhaps our politics attracts underdogs, or maybe we, as citizens, feel more comfortable defining ourselves that way. They may also suggest that politics is something for which it's inappropriate to admit ambition, even after the fact. If that is the case, it's no wonder that people don't always think about politics, or claim to stumble into it so accidentally. If that is so, it's quite a comment on the state of political leadership in Canada.
You can learn more about the project here. We hope you will read the report, and pass it on to others who are interested in political leadership or public policy, here or abroad.
We also hope you'll share your overall reactions below, as well as your comments on a few of the questions the report raised for us, including questions on:
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