Top News

OPINION: Island politics 'elitist'

Sometimes, the scales of justice seem unbalanced.
Sometimes, the scales of justice seem unbalanced. - 123RF Stock Photo

Levers of P.E.I. politics largely controlled by lawyers from province’s most prestigious law firms

BY CHRIS MCGARRY
GUEST OPINION

If there is one issue people in western countries consistently gripe about, it’s the fact that the political establishment has become too out of touch with the average taxpaying citizen. The people become more disillusioned and frustrated with each passing day while our so-called ‘elected representatives’ sit in their ivory towers. Much of this blatant elitism is the result of political parties being infiltrated and taken over by law firms.

And nowhere in North America is this more in-your-face than in our own backyard. Yes, the levers of Prince Edward Island politics are largely controlled by the mysterious ‘Backroom Boys’, many of whom include some of the province’s most prestigious law firms.

We live in a society governed by the rule of law and lawyers do play a significant role in maintaining the principles Canada was founded on. But at the same time, if the political establishment is to remain in the hands of the common man and woman, it is essential to limit the influence powerful law firms have in political parties.

It’s a known fact that lawyers often run for politics with the express intention of procuring lucrative government contracts for their former law firms.

It goes without saying that the involvement of law firms and other powerful elite business interests (chartered accounting firms and real estate agencies) is a longstanding tradition that has become embedded into PEI politics. At present, three lawyers and three accountants sit on the executive of the Liberal Party of Prince Edward Island while the Progressive Conservative Party has two of each. Out of the last ten provincial premiers two were lawyers (Joe Ghiz and Alex Campbell) while the current premier, Wade MacLauchlan was formerly a law professor.

With the Progressive Conservative leadership race heating up and a provincial election on the horizon for the near future, the Island’s law firms are gearing up for action, getting their star candidates into place. Recently, a Stewart McKelvey lawyer and former PC executive member who crafted the leadership process, suddenly resigned from the executive so she could join PC candidate Dennis King’s campaign.

While many lawyers may enter politics with the best of intentions, the elitism that is produced from the marriage of law firms and political parties is the cause of much of the corruption that has infested this province and made us look bad on the national stage.

Travel across this wonderful province and you will get to know the true face of Prince Edward Islander: small organic farmers, artisans, fishers, entrepreneurs and small business owners. These are the individuals who must represent their fellow citizens in the provincial legislature.

There is an old riddle: “How many lawyers does it take to change a political party from being corrupt to being ethical?” If the right people get into power, the answer will be zero.

- Christopher McGarry is a freelance journalist and indie author who lives in Iona, P.E.I.

Recent Stories