Wednesday, January 13, 2021

"Sending more time with family" is now a popular career move for top politicians

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has just carried out another cabinet reshuffle. A shuffle like this is often a prelude to an election, and most people seem to believe that a federal election will indeed be called this year, perhaps as early as the spring, although Trudeau insists that it is the last thing he wants.

The main instigating event, though, is the announcement by current Innovation, Science and Economic Development minister Navdeep Bains, a long-time Trudeau insider, that he will not seek re-election and is to stand down from his cabinet post, which he has held for the last 4 years. The awkwardly-named ministry is a pretty high profile one, and Mr. Bains must be considered to be at the height of his career. Which makes me wonder, cynical as I am, what the REAL reason behind his announcement is.

The stated reason for Mr. Bains' departure is that old chestnut, to spend more time with family: "It's time for me to focus on the most important job I have, being a Dad". There's even a whole back-story to it, that his daughter mentioned one day that, were he to be elected for another four years, she would be grown up and in university by then, which made Mr. Bains stop and think about his priorities in life. 

It's a good story, but I (cynical as I am) can't help but think: wait, a top level politician of this kind has to be so drive and so ambitious that very few of them can have had such a life-altering Damascene moment, and chucked a high level and lucrative career to help a teenager with her homework. See, cynical!

The "wanting to spend more time with family" line has been used over and over again when major politicians and business people stand down from top jobs, and it doesn't always mean what it says. Often people turn out to have been pushed out, or are being proactive in avoiding some kind of a scandal. 

This may not be the case with Navdeep Bains, but it just seems a bit disingenuous to me for politicians to always resort to the family  explanation, rather than saying something like, "I realized I could make more money as a lawyer or a corporate consultant" or, "I am totally disillusioned with federal politics". Rather, it seems to me, spending more time with my family" is a recognized shorthand for "I don't want to talk about the real reasons".

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