If I had a quarter for every time I have heard somebody say that about politicians, I would no longer have to worry about which direction interest rates are headed in. Time and again I hear people around me lament the fact that there is yet another election coming our way.

The reasons for their cynicism are many, but I hear the same two sentences repeated time and again. “What difference does it make who I vote for? They’re all a bunch of crooks, anyway.” That is one of them. The other is “They’re all the same. Once they get into office they turn around and do whatever they want. None of them keep their promises.”

Let me say right now that it does matter who you vote for. It matters in a great many ways regardless of who you are. Whether you are young, old, white, black, management or worker, rich or poor; the decisions that the people that we elect make will have a profound effect on your life and the life of your children. Whether it is interest rates on your mortgage, the medical care for your loved ones, education for your children, or ethics for our society, governments affect each one of us whether we like it or not.

When I hear people complain that all politicians are crooks, I know that their lamenting is simply an expression of the frustration that they feel at the state of our country. Don’t get me wrong, I love Canada. That is why I write this column. But having said that, there are some serious problems in our country and they need to be addressed. The only way that you and I can address them is to do it through the legislative and electoral processes.

Our officials and our legislators are elected. If we are so unhappy with the way we see our leaders, then we should be doing a better job of changing who they are. We need to start evaluating the men and women who solicit our votes a lot differently.

Our politicians are not born on a separate plane, or a separate planet. They come from among us. They may, for some, be privileged, but they are still from among us. Their views are shaped by those who teach them and by those with whom they associate. Their values are extensions of the values of Canadians. In the same measure, their lack of ethics and morality are simply a reflection of the lack of ethics and morality of the Canadian people.

Canadians have become cynical and apathetic. It has not taken long to get here. I believe that our apathy is simply another form of passing the buck. We have been taught that nothing is ever really our fault. There are always underlying reasons for things not going well, but the blame is never ours. That is carried over into our politics. We see the corruption above and think that we have no part in it. We are wrong.

We have let our standards subside. They are nowhere near where they once were. For all of the whining that Canadians do about their leaders, they continue to re-elect the same people over and over again. Why?

Our leaders are only corrupted when we allow them to be. There seems to be no consequence in this country for dishonesty or unethical conduct. I believe the reason for this is because voters do not exercise their authority on election day. As long as we remain complacent with the type of leaders that we have, we get what we deserve.

Instead of worrying about economics and money, issues and crises, perhaps it is time to start measuring our leadership candidates with a different ruler.

We are told by the media when a candidate has charisma. We are told by the media when they are bland. Now I ask you, what does it matter if a candidate cannot relate to the press? How many men with ethics and morals do we disqualify simply on the fact that they are not smooth? How many times have we elected poor leaders because they were smooth talkers?

How many times will we fault candidates for being inexperienced in the political arena, only to turn around and elect a career politician, one whose life’s work is to live off of the people? We need to start looking at our leadership hopefuls in a different light. Perhaps if we were to look at who they really are, what they have done in life, and whether they are upstanding, moral, and honest, then perhaps we would start getting leaders with some character instead of leaders who become characters.

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