The Human Nature of Political Leaders 

The Ontario election is a reminder of the personal sacrifice required by candidates, and especially party leaders. This was profoundly evident when outgoing NDP Leader Andrea Horwath took the stage on Thursday night. It must have been a palpable moment for her: the reduction of seats and the realization that she would never become the premier of Ontario.

A Political Overview

It can be easy to ridicule our leaders. This author is a dedicated partisan, and is guilty of that behavior, though one tries to keep those comments to a private sphere. 

But these are real people with real families and real emotions. For Ms. Horwath, Mr. Del Duca and Mr. Ford, everything was on the line in this election.  

Here are certain traits that I believe to be common in every leader, everywhere in Canada and beyond.  

They are risk-takers. To enter the political arena, and then seek the leadership of any party, requires steely resolve, and suspension of the fear of the unknown. It requires fortitude and resilience.  

They are extremely hard workers. Not content with a nine-to-five lifestyle and an evening of Crave TV, they are driven and have no problem managing punishing hours and relentless, competing demands. There are no lazy leaders.  

They have nerves of steel. To lead is to subject oneself of cruel and unusual punishment. From the vagaries of social media filth, to newspaper cartoons, to critiques from adversaries, a leader signs up to endure the seven circles of hell. To be able to withstand all of that requires immense control and calm. Nobody enjoys being clobbered, but leaders are built to endure it.  

As Ms. Horwath and Mr. Del Duca exit the leadership of their parties, it is important, no matter one’s affiliation, to be mindful of their service. This coming from an ardent supporter of Mr. Ford. But it is no paradox.  

Our vitality as a democracy demands options for voters, thereby creating what ought to be a healthy tension as ideas are debated in the public sphere. Therefore, the risk-taking, hard-working, steely-nerved leaders are needed to take up the charge.  

By way of conclusion, the low voter turnout in the 2022 Ontario general election is troubling. While this was not a “change election” where voters are motivated to turn a government, all of us who value our democratic institutions must help encourage our neighbours and friends to exercise a fundamental right of citizenship: voting. The familiar refrain of the non-voter is the lack of options. To which I respond: spoil your ballot to make a stand, but at least show up and cast a ballot.  

As Professor Robin Lathangue noted, and I paraphrase, ours is a participatory democracy.  We have to be active in it for it to be sustained. A more familiar phrase that we have all heard is, “decisions are made by those who show up.” It is true.   

Thank those who serve, and may there always be new leaders, waiting in the wings, willing to stand up for a cause, even those some of us may deplore. Our provinces and our country are enhanced by their contributions, even if we can’t see it.  We need them more now than ever.  

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