Bright politician?

My MP called me at home last week. I won’t mention his name, but he is the premier’s brother.

“Stuart, you don’t understand how long it takes to set up an MP’s office. It took three months to get it painted … I haven’t had a single day off in nine months.”

The call was a response to an e-mail I’d sent him in February. It was a blistering letter of complaint about not being able to reach the high-profile backbench MP. A meeting had been set at his office for December 4 (yes, last year) but it was cancelled at the last minute and I’d been unable to reach him or his “people” to reschedule. Maybe it was the paint fumes.

I’d been trying to tell the MP about Project Porchlight. I wanted his help. In fact, I figured he would like the idea of so much that he would want the idea to be his own. If every Canadian household changes just one light bulb to a compact fluorescent, it would be like taking 66,000 cars off the roads. Cleaner air. “How many Canadians does it take to change a light bulb?” The campaign seemed easy to grasp, even for a busy MP.

But with no reply in 3 months, I decided this MP wasn’t open to ideas, even simple ones. This surprised me because he is a nationally recognized environmental lawyer. He even claims that he wrote the Green Party national platform. “They stole all my ideas!” he said.

So I said maybe he should have run for the Greens. And that he could have been a breakthrough candidate for them. I also said I he didn’t have to make excuses about not calling me back, because I knew that he knew I didn’t vote for him.

“Stuart, when I tuck my kids into bed at night, I tell them how the world should be. When I go to work, I am in the world as it really is.”

(Translation: “You wasted your vote. Now you’re wasting my time.”)

It occurred to me only after the call ended that the greatest leaders and politicians in Canadian history are not remembered for their cynical pragmatism. We don’t demand enough of our leaders these days. All I want is for the Prime Minister to stand up in Parliament with a twirly bulb in hand and say, “Change one light bulb to help cut pollution. Even I can do that!” Simple, right? It’s not like we’re proposing to blast tunnels through the Rockies using slave labour from overseas. Sheesh.

But I’ll save this observation for my meeting. The MP’s office has called three times since our chat, and we’ve got a date for next Friday.

“I’m not going to let you write me off, Stuart.”

I respect the fact that the MP didn’t call to kiss my ass. I like that fact that he let his exasperation show. Hell, I wouldn’t want his job. But he has to earn my respect. And the country is looking for leadership – maybe even a little idealism. Now that’s a bright idea.

Find your MP here. Send an e-mail. Don’t hold back.

Project Porchlight was on CBC Radio’s Ontario Today last week. Visit the Web site and plan a porchlight event near you!

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