When a Roman General celebrated a military “triumph” through Rome, dressed in a glorious purple-and-gold toga suggesting royalty or even divinity, a companion or possibly a slave would stand beside him in the chariot repeatedly whispering into his ear “Remember that you are mortal”.
Why? Because the Romans understood the dangers of pride or indeed arrogance. Better, perhaps, than we do today.
I expect Jason Kenney now wishes he’d assigned someone to remind his own caucus members, like MLAs Tanya Fir, Jeremy Nixon, Tracy Allard and Pat Rehn.
While the rest of us stayed home and didn’t visit our children or grandchildren over Christmas, and tried to follow the rules set down for us, they saw fit to travel out of country to warmer climates in direct contravention to their own government’s recommendation against such travel.
Ontario’s former finance minister, Rod Phillips probably wishes he’d told a staff member to do it to him before leaving for a carefully concealed vacation to exclusive Saint Barthélemy or, at the least, before creating a series of social media posts that made it seem he was still just folks and at home.
As might NDP MP Niki Ashton, who travelled to Greece to visit her ill grandmother without mentioning it to her party leader or whip.
In a fine statement the NDP acknowledged her observance of protocols and the importance of family, but said with millions of us unable to visit sick relatives “Canadians, rightfully, expect their elected representatives to lead by example” and removed her from her shadow roles.
The biggest mistake elected officials can make is to become arrogant, to “believe their own clippings”.
The atmosphere of constant crisis and the partisan rhetoric of good against evil can easily feed such a sense of self-importance that they start feeling they have reached a higher plane than the rest of us mortals. Literally, in the case of these trips.
It’s possible that a sense of entitlement also comes in part from getting paid too much.
Whatever the cause, this arrogance was especially visible when some of these MLAs posted pictures of themselves on public social media sites from such locations, e.g. Pat Rehn’s T-shirted shot from a Mexican tourist attraction with the caption “Merry Christmas from our cave to yours”.
As for Tracy Allard, as a vice chair of cabinet’s Emergency Management Committee, you of all people were aware of the government’s rules and recommendations.
If your judgement is this bad when it comes to one set of rules for us and another for you, how can this important committee, your colleagues and especially we taxpayers rely on your leadership in the future?
I invite all elected officials therefore to imagine Allard, Rod Phillips, Tanya Fir, Pat Rehn, Jeremy Nixon and Niki Ashton whispering in their ear “Remember that you are no more important than the average tax payer – your boss.”
For the sake of your character and, indeed, your career, because the alternative is to have voters, and the premier, shout it at you when you are caught.