Like many high school students, I spent my first working summers as a day camp counsellor.
Every June, just before the first batch of kids showed up at the gates, the camp director would offer one final marching order to his staff.
Do not let a day pass, he would urge, without asking yourselves whether, as a parent, you would want your own child to be here.
On a week when a 25-year old former Conservative staffer has been found guilty in relation to the robocalls scandal, Canada's political operators and the elected officials who employ them might want to ask themselves a similar question.
In today's parliamentary environment, would they want their sons and daughters to grow up to be the kids in short pants who have become essential fixtures of the place?
It is a bit of a paradox that while the election turnout of the 18-30 voting cohort leaves much to be desired, the system would grind to a halt if it were not for the legion of bright talented young people who toil behind the scenes on and off Parliament Hill.
The appeal is obvious.
Backroom politics is a rare working environment where smarts routinely trump seniority. (It helps that it is a business where seniority is an elusive concept.)
Opportunities abound to take on responsibilities that are usually the lot of older hands in the private sector.
Ray Novak was 36 when he became Stephen Harper's chief of staff and by then he was already a backroom veteran.
Karl BÈlanger, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's principal secretary, was 22 when he started working for the party.
Some come to the Hill at an early age as parliamentary interns and they split their time between a government and an opposition office, getting to see both sides of the coin. But most young staffers enter the political arena through the partisan door and it increasingly leads them straight to a war room.
Electoral politics is a blood sport and an intoxicating addictive one at that, especially in an era of permanent campaigning.
To work in federal politics these days is to breathe in partisan helium 24/7.
Short-term strategic gaming matters more than long-term policy outcomes and consensus has become a poor cousin to finding a wedge to pry voters off a rival.
In public, that translates into a culture of mutual disrespect that is on exhibit daily in question period.
In private, it leads to an adversarial climate that makes it easier to rationalize making the most of the grey zone between what is ethical and what is legal.
The opposition would have you believe that those tendencies are exclusive to the ruling Conservative party. But each one of them has become more inclined to play hardball than in the past. In whole or in part, they have all bought the notion that good guys finish last.
Michael Sona, the ex-Conservative staffer who was found guilty on Thursday of taking part in a scheme to suppress opposition votes in the Ontario riding of Guelph in the last federal election, was 22 years old when he broke the law.
In his ruling on Thursday, trial judge Gary Hearn made it clear he did not assume that Sona acted alone or even that he initiated the scheme. But nor did he find that he was an unwilling participant. On that score, he noted that arrogance and self-importance had ultimately gotten the better of the young staffer.
Notwithstanding Justice Hearn's sense that others were involved in the robocalls, it is far from certain that the full picture will ever come to light. The identity of the presumed mastermind, if he or she exists, may never be known.
But given the toxic culture that flourishes for all to see in this Parliament, only a hypocrite would claim to be surprised by the fact that the 22-year-old Sona felt empowered enough to set out to distort the democratic process and good enough about doing that to brag about it.
Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer.