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Why good parents avoid politics

“Take a gander through the Susan Holt article online. She engages with the tolls in the comments.”

That was the text from my husband Wednesday morning. Perfect timing, as I was standing by the coffee pot. I poured myself a fresh cup and expected to be entertained. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised, informed, and inspired.

I might have missed the story in the Times & Transcript print edition. A few hundred words and a small photo on A6, tucked under a court story and pushed to the side by a large, colourful ad for a skating show in Saint John. “Liberal candidate may not run if pay isn’t disclosed” read the headline; the same headline shared online, where the story already had dozens of comments and was pushing past 60 when I wrote this column.

The details: political watchers are wondering who is going to run for the leadership of the provincial Liberal party. A reporter asked Susan Holt, who ran against David Coon in Fredericton South, her intentions. She said she’s waiting on information from the Liberal party about what the job would pay a non-sitting MLA.

For many commenters online, that appears to be an unreasonable request. Holt was called out as greedy, attention-seeking, entitled, and so on. Her family’s decision to have one parent stay home to raise their three young children was questioned. She was sent the link to a job site. Disappointing and typical responses. What was not disappointing were her answers.

To me, reading the comments – Holt’s included – shined a perfect spotlight on barriers that keep many of our best potential candidates out of political races. I know several people who have run for municipal, provincial, and federal seats. This is not the first time I’ve seen armchair pundits share their questionable views online. Nor is it the first time I’ve witnessed a passionate, intelligent person struggle between wanting to serve their community and needing to put food on their table.

Sure, Holt recently had a salary that I’d guess puts her family in this province’s one percent. In 2017 she was a deputy minister, a title that comes with an annual salary above $150,000. She left that role for one in the Premier’s office, a switch that then allowed her to run in the last election. But she also went on maternity leave, meaning she wasn’t bringing home her full salary, the only salary for her family of five. She returned to full time work October 1st, 2018 and was let go November 2nd, 2018. Even the most frugal among us would be feeling the pinch of such economic changes and would be looking to confirm the salary of any prospective position.

Past non-elected party leaders have been paid for their work, until such time as they won a Legislature seat. Holt isn’t asking for anything new. From what’s been shared, she isn’t asking for any exorbitant for payment, either. She simply wants to know what the salary would be before deciding to apply for the job. Pretty sure that’s common practice and advice any business coach would give. As Holt shared on Twitter: “I didn’t realize it was inappropriate to try and understand the terms of employment before deciding whether to apply for the job.”

I have no idea what the salary might be, nor do I personally need to know. What I know is that a smart, articulate woman answered a reporter’s question honestly. And continued to answer questions and comments from the public in a calm, respectful way, illuminating some of the horribly misunderstood and unknown aspects of political life that are keeping good people from putting their names forward.

A version of this post appeared originally in the Times & Transcript. Click here for more of Jenna Morton’s column, She Said.

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