One of the most important roles of a parent is to teach children the difference between right and wrong. I'm not talking about what's legal or illegal. I'm referring to that sometimes nebulous concept called morality. Which is why recent events in the political realm have, oddly enough, been a bonus. Examples of mercenary politicians are a perfect way to discuss why, just because you can do something, it doesn't make it right.
From senators allegedly fudging the location of where they lay their hat - haberdashery paid for no doubt by taxpayers - to premiers expecting pricey trinkets for doing their job, it's getting hard to hear anything above the noise of greedy grunting as their snouts dip into the public trough.
The sad thing is they don't even realize how we - the ones who foot the bill - view their behaviour. Instead, they tend to brush it off. Senator Mike Duffy informs the media to do "adult work" as though his shenanigans are not newsworthy. When he used to be on the other side, he had no qualms about asking difficult questions of the politician's, now he sneaks out the kitchen door like a rat.
Then we have MLA Mat Whynott's bizarre defense of taxpayer funded gifts to the thirteen premiers who attended last year's conference in Halifax. Among the gifts were 400 fleece jackets. That works out to roughly 30 jackets per premier. One for each day, perhaps? The excuse given on Rick Howe's talk-radio was a rambling explanation of how the premiers discuss important policies and it was implied that since it's a tough job perks are necessary. To top this off was his attack on Kevin Lacey of the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation. Boiled down it amounted to: "Hey, we spent less on our gifts than the previous government did!" That makes it alright then.
You see kids, if you go into a store just after thieves have robbed it of several large screen TV's, it's okay to help yourself to a small stereo system. As long as what you take is less than what the other guy took, then you're a better person and all is well.
Of course this is ludicrous. No reasonable person would even consider such an argument.
In contrast to those demanding their entitlements is another gentleman - truly deserving of the title - who is a selfless exemplar of a community minded individual. For the past 30 years, Mel Boutilier has been volunteering at the Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank. He draws no salary and does not expense gas or cellphone fees. He doesn't feel entitled to whisky tumblers or cheeseboards.
Want a role-model? Here's someone who does what's right without the need of a financial carrot. Our politician's would do well to take a few lessons from Mr. Boutilier and the food banks' other volunteers.
It's a strange world we live in. While our money is being used to comfort well-paid politician's, Mr. Boutilier struggles to come up with $20,000 to help those in need pay for heat. Imagine if the $35,654.35 for fleece jackets had gone instead to people who knew the value of a buck?
To paraphrase Whynott, "That would have been the smart thing to do."
Kevin Toal is a freelance writer who suggests checking out http://www.parkerstreet.org/ to see what you can do to help.