About Us Government Relations Public Policy Resources Publications Media

Print this pageSubscribeSend this page

Politics and the Family Business

The Conservative’s attempt to typecast Justin Trudeau as “way over his head” ignores the realities of the successful professional politician today. Increasingly the most successful politicians are the ones that have either been born into the business or have spent most of their lives preparing for it.  The most prominent members of the Conservative Cabinet including the Prime Minister have done little else in their adult live besides politics. American politicians such as Obama, Bush and Clinton also demonstrate this trend.

Politics is a rough business.  It takes years of practice and experience to be good at it.  So if the “way over your head” claim were used to exclude individuals who had done little else but practice politics then we would have a half-filled Parliament, no Prime Minister and half the cabinet gone.

The old idea that the best politician is one that has had success in some other walk of life has been trending down. The opposite may be true.  The characteristics and virtues that help a person succeed in a profession or in business may not be the most appropriate skills for politics today.  Successful politicians are basic communicators, who learn how to focus on 2 or 3 main themes, bridge to them constantly and avoid complex discussions. These are hardly the same requirements for successful business leaders, doctors or other professionals.

More importantly, the exposure, lack of privacy and 24/7 in-your-face requirements of politics today are a significant deterrent to enter politics for people doing well elsewhere

So increasingly the make-up of elected office is drawn from a smaller number of sources: some enter the family business at the age of maturity; others prepare for political life as young Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats; others get their first and only real jobs working for politicians and then transition to elected office.

The fact that elected officials are more likely to be drawn from a self-selected political class than from the broader society also changes the nature and way in which politics is done. That in turn makes it even less attractive for accomplished people not-already-schooled in politics to want to enter the profession.

Hillwatch Inc., 45 O’Connor St. Suite 1150, Ottawa ON K1P 1A4 tel: (613) 238-8700 fax: (866) 310-4955