Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on January 4, 2021.

I saw a funny tweet a couple of days ago. It went something like this, ‘Canadians are urged not to travel overseas during the pandemic. They’d risk running into some of their elected officials…’ Except it was funny only for a bit.

There is a 2020 Christmas holiday wall of shame related to the tweet and it is reserved almost entirely for various MPs and MLAs across Canada. Many traveled as if there is no pandemic and while one or two of them claimed it was to attend a funeral or see an ailing relative, majority simply went on vacation.

You’d think they would consider that the news would get out. Either they thought it would wash over quickly because hey, there’s a pandemic for people to be focusing on (yes, the irony,) or they simply did not care.

Integrity is a big word and an elusive concept at times among some politicians. Often, when integrity lacks and it shows, we see a slap on the wrist, or a small social media storm. Then things go back to the usual. It’s chalked up to ‘we are all human; we all make mistakes.’

True, but depending on where we find ourselves – as parents, educators, elected officials, and in general, members of a community we want to see do well, integrity and accountability should be high on the list.

Also, this has been a trying time for everyone, and so many of us have kept to ourselves to help flatten the curve.

Being dishonest or a hypocrite is not a mistake. And both are unbecoming of any self-respecting adult, including the ones we choose to represent our interests in the community and beyond.

I am happy to see that no B.C. politicians are on the naughty traveling list and hoping it will stay that way*. However, this is not a contest among provinces about who does better. It is but a sad reminder of integrity lacking.  *Since the writing of this piece, it has come to light that a number of B.C. politicians as well as high profile medical professionals have dropped the standards of integrity and took their vacations away from home.

There is a quote that speaks volume in a book I recently came across, called ‘Integrity – the courage to meet the demands on reality,’ by Dr. Henry Cloud. It goes like this: ‘The greatest people are the ones who have not sought greatness, but served greatly the causes, values, and missions that were much bigger than them.’

I’d happily suggest making such a book and others like it, obligatory lecture for up and coming politicians. With an exam at the end – not multiple choice, but essay style, and no convoluted answers either, but concise and with substance.

It is only logical that we hold our elected officials at high standards. It is only logical that we consider integrity to be an essential part of one’s character. There is no shortage of role models: in real life, in our own community and beyond, and of course, there are many great books that discuss values such as integrity, honesty and accountability.

This recent black eye on the face of Canadian politics can easily become a case study for the above-mentioned high standards. ‘Do as I say not as I do’ is the tag line for unapologetic, hypocritical behaviour, but as far as human values go it’s a sure nosedive. We should acknowledge that and teach our kids about that too.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.’

Whether you believe in setting resolutions for the new year or not, here’s an invitation to always choose integrity, in your personal and professional life, and let’s use this infamous episode as a reminder to hold our elected officials accountable. That’s how win-win situations are created.