A politician’s happy talk

A member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet has adopted an entitlement from the founding document of the United States.

Catherine McKenna’s declaration of independence asserts the pursuit of happiness as a tenet of serving in the Canadian government.

The environment minister began the year with interviews proclaiming she will leave work at 5:30 p.m., turn off her phone and go home to spend quality time with her husband and kids, aged 11, 9 and 7.

They’ll have dinner together in their house in the trendy Glebe neighborhood, in her Ottawa riding. Her phone – and responsibilities to the country – will be turned on again at 8 p.m.

“I am not going to be a good minister unless I’m happy at home and my family’s happy and there’s some balance,” she told the Toronto Star.

Sounds like a threat: I’m going to be lousy at my job unless I run my life the way I want to.

It reminds me of multimillionaire athletes who say their team stinks because they’re not having fun.

“I just decided that it was really important that I figure out a way that I could be effective at work but also be happy,” McKenna said on CBC Radio. “I had to figure out how I could carve out the time that was important to me.”

Happy. Happy. Happy. Me. Me. Me.

Some cheek for a 44-year-old rookie MP elevated to the cabinet only a couple of months ago.

Whatever happened to the ideal of public service as an exercise in selflessness?

Churchill, JFK, Reagan and Thatcher were famous nappers. But there is nothing in the history books to suggest they were ever incommunicado.

Maybe it’s a Canadian tradition, started by Sir John A. off on a bender. But there is no record of him ever announcing: I’m going to be drunk until Sunday.

Therein lies the chutzpah of Catherine McKenna. She could have kept quiet, left her office early and no one would know – or care.

But she appears to subscribe to the notion that her happiness, her well-being – she also will regularly clear time to work out, she says – should be trumpeted as synonymous with the public good.

And that our taxes, paying her $250,000 a year, in a job that prescribes more vacations than teachers, afford her the right to write her own schedule.

McKenna has noted that before Christmas, Trudeau told cabinet ministers it was important for them to spend the holidays with their families. “The prime minister has set the tone on this,” she said.

Great. Five years of ministers equating their kids’ soccer games with G8 meetings.

Maybe a good use of taxpayer money would be sending copies of The Culture of Narcissism to all Liberal MPs. (Only $20 apiece from Amazon.)

What I find most galling about McKenna’s declarations is that she compares her position to that of other working stiffs.

“It’s an issue for all Canadians,” she told CBC.

Too many are spending too many hours on the job. Slaving 50, 60, 70 hours a week just to pay the bills. Knowing they might be out of a job if they clock out early, or on time.

If McKenna cares about making the lives of Canadians better, she and her government can pass a law that allows all employees to set their own schedules.

Once she’s accomplished that, she should feel free to follow suit.

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