Terms limits needed for mayor, councillors
In a recent interview, U.S. President Barack Obama said that he’d “rather be a really good one-term President than a mediocre two-term President.” He noted that “there is a tendency in Washington to think that our job description as elected officials is to get re-elected. That’s not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people.”
What Obama identifies as an American issue is also prevalent around the world. As the municipal election fires up, it seems like not even City Hall can shield itself from this phenomenon of self-serving politics.
Here in Toronto, first-time politicians Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson have both based their election campaigns on replacing an old, dysfunctional group called City Council. According to Thomson, “we must get our career politicians out and bring in fresh thinking and new ideas.” To Rossi, “talented individuals who used to be part of the solution are now part of the problem because, quite frankly, they have stayed too long.”
It seems like the same rhetoric arises every election. But how do we ensure that we get a continuous inflow of fresh, creative ideas? How do we keep our politicians from rotting in their offices from complacency? A two-term limit is the answer.
The idea of imposing a term limit for the Mayor and City Councillors is not a revolutionary idea. Simply by browsing through the comments on this site, anyone can see that more than one Torontonian would advocate for such a measure.
But make no mistake – term limits do not imply that no one is capable of holding public office. Limits certainly are not there to keep people out. What they do is effectively ensure that our politicians are willing to do what is necessary for the public good rather than what will re-elect them for another term.
This, unfortunately, is not the case currently.
According to Lowell Kwan, a soon-to-be voter, "politicians never seem to interact with their constituents unless there's an election. Once they're voted in, they disappear into 'public office' and never seem to come out."
Politics should not be viewed as a pleasant job to settle into towards the end of one’s career. Politicians are elected to tackle tough issues, not sit on them. A two-term limit encourages thoughtful, creative ideas for the issues of today while allowing for long-term planning. It also offers the opportunity for other political candidates to take the lead before things get too comfortable.
However, some would argue voters themselves should dictate who remains in office, and that less capable individuals will get weeded out. But, according to Stephen Thiele, president of The Toronto Party, with 80 to 85 per cent of incumbents remaining in office, the weeding out of politicians hardly ever occurs.
Others will point out the fact that more capable politicians who are meant to stay will not be able to. But with 2.48 million people in Toronto, there must be more passionate and capable individuals out there than the main contenders we see in the media. New voices would have a more even playing field, as the numbers of long-standing politicians with solid financial foundations would decrease.
As the quotes mentioned earlier in this article, more new faces in office makes for a variety of fresh perspectives which better represent the people. And politicians who are not focused on winning the next election and hunting for sponsorships for their re-election campaigns will put their concentration towards the public good.
Whoever is elected to City Council will need to stop talking about issues and start fixing them. More importantly, those elected must not get complacent and forget why they are there in the first place – for Torontonians. Term limits will ensure that happens.