Huffpost Canada ca
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Gerry Som Headshot

Why Do Canadians Still Tolerate Political Scandals?

Posted: Updated:

Last December, I wrote a blog post about my thoughts on how to prevent political scandals in 2013. Yet, I read the newspapers or online news in Canada today, and the same stories continue in 2013, as well -- expense scandals time and again, conflicts of interest, lowering the respectability of the public office, you name it! Why do we Canadians continue to tolerate these political / financial scandals in 2013? Why are we surprised when they happen?

I find such stories, public inaction, and the news reporting silly and annoying! How about you? Canadians should have found solutions for such problems long ago, yet we go round and round in circles!

Let me offer my interpretation once more. As mentioned in my last post, rational people will act with greed and self-interest, and if there is an opportunity to cheat the system, some people will be tempted to do so. That is a given! We can keep the following perspectives in mind to understand these scandals better:

Given a chance, (with or without a lack of fear of being caught or made public, depending on the circumstances and incentives), it is highly likely that people in power (whether in politics or business):
1. Will abuse expense accounts to supplement the money from salary (it may be 5 cents or 5 million dollars), since the salary is fixed, and is not negotiable for a certain time period.
2. Will try to create situations while in power, to guarantee gains after the end of the term in power.
3. Will favor their own kind (race, religion, neighborhood, or family) or their friends.
4. Will accept favours, bribes or kickbacks (it may be 5 cents or 5 million dollars).
5. Will surround themselves with Yes-men who help them to implement their personal agendas.
6. Will hold public and private positions at the same time even if it translates to conflict of interest (think Board Of Director positions with pay or incentives, or ownership of companies while doing business with the government).
7. Will make new arrangements for bonuses or terms for golden handshakes or golden parachutes.
8. Will inflate their achievements and hide their failures.
9. Will seek or maintain friendships or connections with people in power in corporations, even with an existing possibility of exchange of favours or gifts.
10. Will increase their popularity and try to leave behind legacies the way they want.
11. Will keep-up-with-the-Joneses, with an increasing appetite for power and money.
12. Will pass decisions to increase their own powers, or try to gently tilt the balance of power in their favor and against the favor of competition.
13. Will make decisions that favor personal gain, even at the cost of public gain.
14. Will develop a sense of entitlement, and see the lines blurring between ethical and unethical, legal and illegal, without feeling guilty about it.
15. Will start believing their own B.S. / B.S of people around them and think they are geniuses, and singularly/majorly responsible for the success of the operations, or the task of running a city, province, country, or a company.

That is human nature! Man has been a hunter and gatherer since ages. It is natural to go out, hunt and bring home the resources or goodies for storage for future use. How would you react, if you were in a position of absolute power? Would you be tempted to make personal gains? Yes! Temptations in private life or work life are not abnormal. What matters is the reaction of people in power to temptations. It is better for Canadians to continuously monitor people in power and keep them in check, rather than hate them for falling for temptations, afterwards.

Do you think that the stories reported in the media are the only cases of financial crimes? No! These are likely just the tips of the icebergs. One of the reasons many people indulge in such acts is that they have likely gone unnoticed in the past, and that emboldens them. In other words, the inaction of the public is an incentive for people in power to continue the financial crimes (yes, stealing public money is nothing short of a crime).

What are some possible solutions to the problems above?
1. Computerize all the (expense limits and) expenses and enter them into an ERP system, accessible anytime.
2. Do data mining and generate public reports about the expenses on trivial or wasteful items.
3. Make all records public (or accessible to the public) -- not just the salary "sunshine lists", but also the expense limits, expenses and the employment contracts, with details of agreements of golden handshakes or parachutes.
4. Raise the bar for codes of conduct for politicians and take measures to improve rules and efficiency of governance -- we deserve better than this daily circus.

If governments like to keep an eye on the citizens -- by tracking their phone calls and emails in North America, people should keep an eye on the governments too, by tracking all their flow of money and decisions involving money. Most power comes from money/resources and the flow of money.

It is understandable that high salaries to public or private executives were intended to act as incentives -- to attract high quality to talent to public offices, and have better outcomes for Canadians. However, this is a catch-22 situation! The people who are smart at doing good can also use their intelligence for doing bad/being naughty. The irony is that some of the smart people in power have used their smartness or influence to cheat the system, create loopholes, or game the system for personal gains!

Just because someone wears a suit and appears on TV, it does not mean that he or she is unquestionable, and can abuse the powers granted to them for the purpose of serving citizens. He or she is just another human being like you! You do have a say in the process of running a government by contacting your elected representatives, and by voting for individuals or parties who work for the common man in Canada. Back to the saying, this is what Canadians must tell their elected representatives -- "Fool us once, shame on you; Fool us twice, shame on us -- and we refuse to be shamed". It is time to stop feeling like victims, and take action, Canada!