Opinion » Maxed Out

Where politicians come from



By G.D. Maxwell

Earlier this week, the National Academy of Sciences announced Italian researchers at the University of Milan had successfully introduced human DNA into swine sperm. Many of the resulting piglets have produce a human gene called the decay accelerating factor, referred to as DAFfy.

Dr. Marialuisa Lavitrano – no relation to Dr. Frankenstein – was hoping to produce a strain of pigs capable of providing organs for transplanting into humans. Nearby prosciutto producers were, quite naturally, incensed at this development, claiming "Just because many people are already pigs there’s no good reason to insult pigs by turning them into people."

In what can only be seen as a cruel, if ironic, twist of fate, it turns out the introduced human gene has only a 40 per cent chance of producing viable, transplantable organs but close to a 78 per cent chance of producing pigs expressing a strong desire to run for Italy’s parliament. Pressed on the matter, Dr. Lavitrano could only say, "It all makes such clear sense; why didn’t we see it coming?"

Why not indeed?

The metaphorical link between politicians and swine has a rich and glorious history. A short-term politico may be referred to as a lame duck, but you can bet the farm he’s still engaged in pork barrel politics, probably more feverishly than at any other time in his checkered career. Politicians larding themselves at the expense of the public are said to have their snouts buried deeply in the public trough.

But local politics – mini-politics? – attract a much leaner breed of swine. The trough’s just not that deep. In fact, it’s downright anorexic. That anyone is willing to do a councillor’s job in Whistler for the going rate of pay may well be the best evidence yet of a strong spirit of public service. The workload is crushing, thick binders of eyeglazing proposals, letters, first and subsequent readings, all written in stilted, bureaucratic language designed not so much to enlighten as to induce serial yawning and fantasies of escape, meetings and more meetings with staff, other councillors, community groups.

Really, it’s surprising 18 people actually want the job. It’s almost reaffirming. I wonder why they want it? I’ll try to ask most of them before the election. I wonder why, of all the many people who ran and lost three years ago, only Tyler Mosher is giving it another try. Was the experience that bad? Did they all get better gigs? Have they left town? Where is DJ Tone when we need him?

I wonder why some of the existing councillors are running again? Some of them don’t really seem to like the job that much. Some seem pretty tired. Tired of meetings, of debate, of differences of opinion, of public input, of criticism, of being in the spotlight. Frankly, some of them seem to have just run out of good ideas. Guess that explains why there hasn’t been much headway on many of the issues identified three years ago as important.