Politicians running scared

What is it with being elected to public office?

What happens to some of these folks – smiling and engaging on the campaign trail but once elected, they grow distant, smug, serious and hard to reach?

Premier Ed Stelmach, before he landed the top job in Alberta’s political scene, seemed a cheery, accessible person.

But recently, during Lacombe’s move to become a city, a couple of reporters were hoping to chat quickly with him before the main afternoon event due to early-in-the-day deadlines.

Granted, he was available later – but that wasn’t much help to those wanting to talk to him earlier.

This incident, which isn’t necessarily Stelmach’s fault, does however point to a seemingly cautious style when it comes to dealing with media.

For one thing, it would be great if Stelmach made himself available for editorial roundtables.

Perhaps he does so in the larger centres, but it’s been some time since local reporters have had such unguarded access.

When he does have to field questions, he sometimes seems guarded and defensive.

Constrast this with ‘honest’ Ed that Albertans put in power years back – welcoming with the ‘guy next door’ personality and generous with time to answer questions.

It was a nice change — too many times the media has to deal with people who take themselves too seriously.

By definition, politicians should be all about people. They should be open to listening, talking and sharing – and that includes with the media.

Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith seems to have lots of time for reporters. During the party’s conference in Red Deer this past June she certainly wasn’t evading media.

Quite the contrary – one day she was sitting in an armchair surrounded by them. It was one of those rare chats where despite the sense of ease in the surroundings, serious issues were discussed.

Alberta Liberal leader David Swann also seems to try and make himself available. NDP leader Brian Mason is rarely in Red Deer so his availability to engage with reporters is tough to measure.

After all, no politician should be afraid of any question from any source – even if they can’t serve up the most intelligent, articulate answer. Society doesn’t expect blinding intellectual wizardry from their elected officials.

They want the truth. They deserve honesty, effort and accessibility. After all, voters are paying the wages, and generous wages at that of these folks.

If politics becomes just another job where the reasons for getting involved in the field in the first place ebb away, perhaps a new line of work should be considered.

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