Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2023/ Hired Help

Hired Help

The latest municipal outrage is that Regional Councillor Rob Deutschmann hired two staffers to help him with research and policy development. Now other members of Regional Council (Dorothy McCabe, Colleen James) are mad and want it to stop.

I am pretty angry with the direction of this discourse. The status-quo lefties correctly argue that Deutschmann is rich and can afford help while they can't (although I would question this for McCabe, who is a mayor and gets a full salary). If this becomes precedent then maybe we will elect more rich people as politicians than we do now.

I see this point and to some degree I agree with it. I also think that there are a lot of other factors here, and the way those are being pushed aside is making me real mad.

First: This is no secret. Deutschmann put out a call to hire assistants after he was elected, and he openly declared that he had hired them. If there was going to be scandal, it should have been then. You might argue that a public Twitter post is some big secret, but other politicians were paying attention and could have spread the alarm if they were so concerned.

Second: One might make the argument that if politicans are allowed to hire external staff then unpleasant things will happen. On the other hand, nobody is talking about the specific people Deutschmann hired. One is Simon Guthrie, a left-winger who ran for Ward 1 Kitchener this election. I do not know much about him, but I would classify him as the typical university-educated lefty activist who is out to change the world. He is a bit older than your typical lefty activist, but he seems like standard politician material.

The other hire is significant: it is Regan Sunshine Brussé. I am biased here because I know Regan a bit. I know that she ran for city council in 2018, and that she is a vocal anti-poverty activist with lots of lived experience. The same left-wing status quo hypocrites screaming bloody murder because Deutschmann hired assistants are the same ones who pay lip service to "diverse perspectives" and "lived experience". But when Deutschmann actually hires one of those people and she messes up by not disclosing her employment status when delegating at Council, it is a Big Deal.

At the risk of being racist, I am especially upset with Colleen James about this, because James never tired of trumpeting her municipal experience as a reason we should have elected her. Now there is somebody else from an underprivileged situation who has the opportunity to gain comparable experience, and James wants it shut down.

"But James was hired by the municipality, and Brussé was hired privately!" I hear you say. Yes, and? I do not know this for sure, but from what I remember Brussé does not have the fancy university credentials that are all but necessary to earn employment in the Regional bureaucracy. (Hey Region of Waterloo: prove me wrong. Make me a world where Deutschmann could have selected Brussé to be his assistant via the "proper channels".) Deutschmann is offering a different mechanism for people to gain that political experence, and it is a Big Problem.

I am not claiming that hiring Brussé justifies a policy that rich politicians should be allowed to have assistants. But I am saying that we should be finding ways for people like Brussé to gain footholds into municipal politics. If there was a policy that allowed underprivileged people to do real work in government while putting up guardrails on the excesses of nepotism, then I would be okay with that. But that is not what will happen. Instead there will be a blanket ban, and then the Region will complain it doesn't have the money to do everything, and then the right-wingers will complain about using municipal funds to hire DEI officers. We know how this ends.

"But people like her can just volunteer!" I hear you say. You aren't wrong, and it is likely her volunteer advocacy that got her the job. But these status-quo lefties are also the ones who are always talking about "living wages" and how unpaid volunteer work is inequitable because poor people are too busy surviving to volunteer their time. Here is a paid opportunity to get experience, and it is not acceptable to the hypocrites who call themselves progressives.

I'll state my biases plainly: I am obviously a fan of Rob Deutschmann. He gets himself into trouble from time to time, and that is okay. I do not agree with the politics of Brussé or Guthrie as much as other people think I do, but I think they both work hard to advocate for their causes. I do worry about the nepotism and filter bubbles that come from hiring a lot of syncophants. I would probably be defending this policy less aggressively if Michael Harris was hiring assistants and not Rob Deutschmann.

However, in principle I do not feel having assistants is a problem. The work of a Regional Councillor (or city Councillor) is enormous. It is difficult work and requires a lot of reading, and the executive summaries offered by public servants is not to be trusted, because they have their own agendas and from what I have seen blatantly spin facts to favour their preferred outcomes. Having independent researchers to help sift through all of this information and to serve as a sounding board for the politician is helpful and important.

I am angry all the time now, so it is no surprise I am angry at this. If this discourse had any nuance maybe I would be less angry, but it doesn't. It is just "Oh noes rich people can hire assistants and the public servants should be sufficient" and I am tired of it.