Mr. Brown is a ward heeler. Ward heelers (not healers) originated as minor American political functionaries during the 19th Century. Their role was to do the neighbourhood work for the political bosses and their organizations. The fact that a ward heeler of Mr. Brown’s insignificance is also a Member of Canada’s Parliament is a regrettable aspect of modern Canadian politics.
With the trends towards fewer voters bothering to cast a vote, the lack of good media coverage of local candidates, the concentration of the broadcast media on leaders and their policies and the disappearing all-candidate meetings in the ridings, a ward heeler such as Mr. Brown becomes the ideal candidate for his party. The only problem is it leaves him unable to properly fulfill either role. He is neither an effective Member of Parliament nor a particularly good ward heeler.
While supposedly busy in the nation’s capitol looking after the affairs of our country, Mr. Brown is busy tweeting and twittering, on his web site, connecting through Facebook, sending out news releases written in offices of the Prime Minister and cabinet members and looking for opportunities to expand his advertising around Babel. All this effort is supposed to make the voters in Babel believe he is busy working for them. At the same time, there is little going on in Babel in which his possible participation is not evaluated in terms of potential votes.
It needs noting that some think the term ‘ward heeler’ as insulting. I do not. They can be very useful people. Good ward heelers are hard to find. I have known some outstanding ones over the years. And, in some circumstances, it is possible to be an elected politician and a good ward heeler at the same time. I think the best I ever met was a provincial politician named Allan Grossman. His advantage was that the Ontario Legislature was almost in the middle of his riding. Allan served his constituents in the Legislature for 20 years. His son, Larry Grossman, tried to carry on his father’s legacy in the Legislature and riding but he was thin gruel compared to his old man and soon left politics.
Allan Grossman knew his voters, knew their wants and needs, and he looked after them. I once served on a charitable board with him and I was constantly impressed with his ability to turn complex political concerns into practical solutions for individual human needs. It was a delight to be able to work with him. His secret was that he cared.
In contrast, my impression is that Mr. Brown spreads himself far too thin across this electoral district to care for anyone other than himself. His voters find him a will-o-the-wisp, flitting from photo-op to photo-op on an itinerary of hypocrisy. There appears to be no one thing he stands for or opposes. There do not seem to be any contentious issues on which he takes a stand. (That is unless his party leader has already said it.)
He does take credit for the work of others. Along with all other active politicos in Babel, he takes full credit for the GO trains that now service Babel commuters wishing to travel to and from the big smoke. He does not take responsibility for the predawn train whistles that are raising the ire of residents in the south of Babel. It makes no difference to him that GO trains are the responsibility of the provincial government. You would think he personally winds up their rubber bands and starts them on their travels every morning.
Less understandable is his involvement in the province’s health care problems. While I will write more about his health care moves at a later date, his involvement in the local hospital provides lots of photo-ops but it is hard to tell whether he is helping or hindering the hospital staff in achieving their objectives.
Mr. Brown spends a great deal of money between elections keeping his name recognition high and avoiding the spending restrictions in force during elections. In an era of serious recession, money seems to be no problem for the ubiquitous Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown looks like he was trained for the job of MP. The only problem is that he seems to have nothing to contribute to the job but another vote for his party. He struggled through Ontario’s easiest law school in Windsor, tried French immersion and served a couple of non-descript terms on city council before assuming the Conservative banner under Stephen Harper. He took no special knowledge of Barrie, national or foreign affairs to Ottawa. He makes no contribution in parliament to the betterment of our country. Everything he does is in aid of getting him re-elected. Given a strong candidate for the Liberals and a solid campaign by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in the coming election, Mr. Brown`s days as a member of parliament will be history.