Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Leadership and legacies.

Friday, July 17th, 2020

This was prodded by a reader. He asked me to search my mind for leaders of Canada’s federal parties and determine what I would consider their legacy to the country.

It was a somewhat disappointing search. While hardly a recent leader, I started with Sir John A. Macdonald. It is a rare person who can believe in a country and then make it happen. Sir John was hardly perfect and he left many problems for future generations. He gave our country a kick start.

The legacy of Sir Wilfrid Laurier is the essential difference between Canada and the United States. Sir Wilfrid was a thinker and he gave us the basis of the liberalism of Canada. He also established Canada as a country in its own right and the working relationship between Quebec and the rest of the country.

It was William Lyon Mackenzie King who established the basics of the country’s social welfare system. He might have been the quirkiest prime minister but he brought us through the Second World War.

I have a special place for Lester B. Pearson. The Auto Agreement that he put together with the United States was the forerunner of the Canada/U.S. free trade. And his two liberal minority governments were the hardest working and passed Canada’s Medicare, the Student Loan program, the Canada Pension Plan, our distinctive maple leaf flag and effectively abolished capital punishment.

I should also note that Mr. Pearson picked the man who followed him: Pierre Trudeau. Pierre’s legacy was his humour, his intellect and his honesty in office, as well as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His son Justin is not much like him.

The last prime minister on the list was handed his legacy by Pierre Trudeau’s Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Economic Prospects for Canada. It fell on Brian Mulroney to carry out free trade with the United States.

We have had five prime ministers since then. Can you name them all?

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

When you can’t press the flesh.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Thinking about political leadership campaigns, it occurs to me that the constraints on the candidates today are not only catastrophic for the candidates but impossible for the party faithful to judge. How can you expect the party members to make a reasoned choice? When meetings cannot take place, you have no chance to question the candidate directly and you really do not get a chance to see how the candidate might perform in a general election. What is left?

What you need obviously is a highly creative effort that breaks new ground in political campaigns. And good luck on that!

What amuses me about the current conservative fiasco is that all trails seem to come back to Barrie and Patrick Brown. He is like Marley’s ghost promising conservative spectres of the past, present and future.

One of these spectres is Walied Soliman, a close friend of Brown’s since their days at University of Windsor law school. Soliman is currently chairing MP Erin O’Toole’s national campaign.

Another spectre is Alex Nuttall, the former MP from Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. Alex spent years as Patrick Brown’s understudy on the conservative farm team at Barrie city council. I always thought he appeared angry when campaigning in 2015 and that might have been one of the reasons Alex won the seat by less than 90 votes. Few were impressed with his performance in Ottawa. He did not run for re-election in 2019.

One of Nuttall’s mistakes while in parliament was publicly supporting MP Maxime Bernier for the conservative leadership that ultimately chose Andrew Scheer.

To-date, the conservative leadership candidates have only seemed to differ on what they might do about climate change and their differences on abortion. While MacKay and O’Toole are considered to be the front runners, the method of balloting and the weighting of the ridings makes it almost impossible to forecast the outcome.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

O’Toole should cool it.

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

It is a pity to waste good political advice on conservatives but MP Erin O’Toole’s current hissy fit with Peter MacKay’s leadership organization could cause irreparable harm in Canadian politics. And rather than being amused by the lack of political smarts of the Erin O’Toole leadership organization, most knowledgeable politicos are appalled by the growing rift.

I am not sure how many times I have given people in the liberal party the lecture about contests between people of the same political party. There is nothing that people in the same party love to do more than to gossip. At political meetings the most important conversations take place in washrooms, hallways and hospitality suites. (Those that take place in convenient beds during gatherings are a subject on its own.)

The point is that, no matter how hotly contested an issue such as the party leadership might be, these are the same people with whom you are going to be working side-by-side in the next election. You should never annoy a fellow party member in any manner that cannot be laughed about or walked back.

And, for heavens sake, never, ever involve Elections Canada or any police. It is only the campaign manager’s responsibility to always be able to lie to any regulatory body with a straight face. And nobody else needs to know everything.

The good news is that Elections Canada and the various police departments in this particular case have a far more sophisticated view of these matters. They are most unlikely to find any wrong doing has taken place. They certainly do not want to charge anyone with what would be a minor offense.

What I would recommend to the conservatives at this time is that they cancel their leadership contest for lack of interest. It might embarrass the party a bit but it is far less embarrassment than having MacKay or O’Toole running the party. In fact, Andrew Scheer is a better interim solution than either of those chuckleheads.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Dougie has “lost the plot.”

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

A chap from ‘Ole Blighty’ was talking the other day about the United Kingdom’s prime minister Boris Johnson. He said “Bo-Jo has lost the plot.” The description fits too many politicians today. Johnson is just one of many. America’s Trump certainly fits the part. The Donald seems to have never read the script. The point is that there are too many pseudo politicians today who think the play is about them. And it is more serious the closer they are to home.

Consider Ontario premier Doug Ford. He has the news media all excited that they are seeing a new Doug Ford because of the job he appears to be doing on the pandemic.

They seem to forget that this is the candidate who was least qualified for the job of premier in Ontario. He came into the job two years ago in total ignorance of what the position entailed. His first serious action was to get even with the Toronto politicians who ridiculed him when he was a Toronto councillor in the seat of his late brother Rob. In a truly destructive act, he cut the number of Toronto city council seats in half when the election process was already underway.

His first cabinet was a collection of prima donnas and blowhards. They were playing their own games and he soon had to start replacing bad actors. Caroline Mulroney quickly proved that her training and experience in New York was of little use in Ontario. But again, legal experience was hardly the consideration when Dougie replaced Mulroney with a small-town ward healer from Severn, up near Orillia. He put a trusted sycophant in finance and replaced a fumbling education minister with a slick operator who had interned with Stephen Harper.

But what really happened was the coronavirus. Both Dougie and his health minister found they had no choice but follow the lead of Ottawa and the health professionals. The only thing that would keep Dougie from getting into serious trouble in the next two years would be if the pandemic lasted that long.

The point is, Dougie does not know how to be a good premier.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Lessons in Leadership.

Friday, June 19th, 2020

New democrat leader Jagmeet Singh got himself thrown out of our socially separated house of commons the other day. He called a fellow parliamentarian a racist. That is not leadership. That is desperation.

Jagmeet’s explanation of his obduracy on the subject was also wrong. How can he insist on saying that the RCMP is systemically racist before the accusation has been proved?

People have been throwing the word ‘systemic’ around quite carelessly and I believe it is best to make sure before making the charge that the blot of racism pervades the organization as a whole. Should that be the case, it would oblige our politicians to do away with our fabled Mounties.

I think the point is that it is the responsibility of our politicians in Ottawa to discuss the subject seriously and without self-indulgent and personal argument.

We need to remember that the house has been meeting these days as a pandemic committee. Not all of our MPs are in the commons. Most are taking part by remote television. Those actually in the house have a special  responsibility to those members who are there only electronically.

But what is the new democrat leader doing but having a personal fit about his perceived racism of a block Québécois MP. At a time when his leadership responsibilities are under a much greater challenge, Jagmeet Singh really does not know what to do.

The NDP leader asked for the responsibility to lead. It is something he has never seemed to be doing while in his present position. His party has continued to be reduced in stature, at a loss for clear policies and less relevant for Canadians. It is not an ideal situation.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Please Justin, get a haircut.

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

We hear through the grapevine that Justin Trudeau and his liberals are thinking election. Since I am supposed to have an opinion on this proposal, I will need to reach deep into my conscience to see if I could support such foolishness at this time.

The one thing that is clear to me is that Justin Trudeau needs tonsorial intervention. A decent haircut and the removal of that facial hair would be a good beginning. I was practically sitting on my barber’s stoop yesterday when she re-opened her business. Let me assure you, it felt wonderful. Life is lighter when the pigeons no longer look at your head with thoughts of nesting.

But now to the question at hand. Should there be a snap election during a pandemic?

The answer is an unequivocal: No. I might be a liberal but that does not require me to approve of stupidity.

It hardly makes sense to call an election as the major opposition party (that actually had the largest vote in the last election) wastes its time in a leadership contest to go nowhere. It hardly matters who wins in the conservative race. The contestants are all losers.

The guys who really need a new leader are the new democrats. If they are too slow to recognize their leadership problem, they deserve the lack of respect they get.

The only party that has really gained ground in Ottawa is the Bloc Québécois. Blanchet and his team are having far too much fun with their new found power to want an election.

But you cannot blame the conservatives and new democrats for being annoyed with Trudeau’s popping in and out of the cuckoo clock at Rideau Cottage. Nor can you deny the need for speed in rescuing Canadians from the serious financial impacts of the pandemic. That does not mean that some of these financial rescue programs do not need a serious second look and adjustments. The opposition are entitled to their views and their criticisms. Justin needs to continue playing nice.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Can Chuckles make a comeback?

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

The conservative party and the news media have written off acting conservative party leader Andrew Scheer much too soon. When he resigned late last year, the unwritten proviso was that the party thought they could get someone better. There might be four or five people vying for the honour of replacing Chuckles but you would have a hard time convincing any sizeable number of conservatives that any one of them is any better.

In fact, it is hard to say which of the four or five prospects could be half as effective as poor old Chuckles. You might expect that Peter MacKay has some of that same experience in the conservative party and in the Harper conservative government. When you ask knowledgeable conservatives about MacKay’s experience, you get a thoughtful answer that agrees, “Yes, he was there.” And then nothing but a sad look.

The facts are that Peter MacKay is a lightweight. He had three important portfolios in the Harper cabinet. He was an embarrassment in all three. He seemed to be working on a reputation for being the playboy of Ottawa and the eastern seaboard. Each portfolio he was in was just another set of photo ops. Mind you, he embarrassed the entire country in coming on to American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

The reason I mentioned the four or five candidates is because last week an Ontario superior court judge said that Jim Karahalios should not have been ejected from the race when he maligned Toronto lawyer Walied Soliman, campaign manager for candidate Erin O’Toole.

I have a hunch that we might not know if there are four or five candidates until we have a ruling from the supreme court. It took a couple days for the right committee of the conservative party to kick out Mr. Karahalios again.

In the meantime, Erin O’Toole is going around being nice to any or all conservatives, hoping for their second vote approval. All O’Toole needs is for Peter MacKay to keep shooting himself in the foot. And that can be as good as money in the bank. There are a couple other candidates—we call them losers.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Same-old, same-old Tory party.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

This conservative leadership contest is a disaster. What started out to be dull and boring has been made doubly dull and boring. We are now advised that we will know who has won the conservative party leadership on August 27. Surprise, surprise, Peter MacKay will likely be crowned. Boring wins again!

This commentary could probably end with that one paragraph. That is all it is worth.

But it seems that likely loser, Erin O’Toole, has a strategy. He is supposing that, for some reason, a slim majority of party voters decide that Peter Mackay is the most boring of all candidates. There are four candidates and O’Toole’s strategy is to try to be every conservative voter’s second choice. That way, in a tighter race, he could win on the second or third count. That is the beauty of the conservative ranked-choice balloting: It elects the most acceptable, not the most preferred.

What it means is that O’Toole needs to run a campaign savaging Peter MacKay and building up the confidence of the two other also-rans. He has to keep those other two in the running.

Mind you, it might be tough to keep social-conservative Derek Sloan in the race. When the MP made the gaffe of attacking Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical office of health, last week, many of his fellow conservative caucus members were calling for his head.

There might be other reasons to keep Leslyn Lewis in the race. It seems that $200,000 is a lot to spend on proving that the conservative party is not the white-bread party of old. When you listen to her social-conservative views, it is hard to think of her as a popular member of Toronto’s black community.

But even if Peter MacKay’s campaign never does shake its doldrums, O’Toole is almost as boring. He reminds us of the Porky Pig character that used to break through the drum at the end of Looney Tunes cartoons, saying, “Th-Th-That’s all folks.”

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

It’s all about politics.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

There was a suggestion in the news the other day that few of us are interested in politics at this time. The assumption was that the coronavirus has chased politics out of the driver’s seat of the daily news. In my humble opinion, that is just so much twaddle. The coronavirus was not sent our way by all-powerful gods. We ended up in this mess because somewhere, some politicians screwed up.

The most reliable reports, at this time, are that the politicians in charge in Wuhan City of China were afraid to bother the top dog politicians in Beijing. They became concerned about an unusual flu that was going around. And then things got out of hand, like people dying. You know what happened when the bosses in Beijing found out.

Nobody wanted to hear the news from the world health folks either. When they declared the novel coronavirus to be a pandemic, nobody had any reason to be happy—unless they had a stockpile of personal protective equipment.

Somebody had let the disease dogs out.

To make matters worse, it was all run by the politicians. Some smart politicians listened to the advice of their medical experts and acted accordingly. Some did not like what their medical people told them and twitted their frustrations. That guy in the American white house, told us it was just a passing fancy. It would go away. The mess in the United States today can be laid at the feet of this man who nobody thinks of as a politician.

People such as Captain Canada, in the person of Justin Trudeau, saw a need for leadership. Despite his minority federal government, the prime minister drew the provincial premiers into his magic circle. What the news media see as political unanimity, you should know it for what it is: political opportunity. If our prime minister could just get a haircut, the world would return to normal.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Is Chuckles shooting blanks?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

The lame duck conservative leader and leader of the opposition in parliament, Andrew Scheer, has a problem. Is nobody paying him any attention? Is it that difficult for him to squeeze past all the articles about the coronavirus and covid-19? Is the pandemic more important?

The answer to all three questions is ‘Yes.’

A lame duck leader, who is nothing but a place holder, until the party choses his replacement, is often ignored. Remember. he resigned to escape the ignominy of being voted out of office by the conservative party. It was the right thing to do. He should have known that the media would no longer come running to hear his words of wisdom.

And the current pandemic makes his situation even more difficult. Scheer’s comfort area is the house of commons. He knows this turf. He has had his best years there as an MP, as speaker and as leader of the opposition in parliament. He wants to keep this alive.

But in a pandemic, parliament is but a shadow of itself. Social spacing would force parliament to be a parliament of about 30 representatives of the people at a time. The other 308 members would be anxiously awaiting their turn.

And arranging for a virtual parliament with connections for all MPs is not an easy matter. Until adequate telecommunications can be made available for all members, some remote MPs would have to come into larger population centres to participate, until the high-speed, two-way connections can be completed in their ridings. Even then the management of sight and sound connections for more than 300 individuals, in isolation from each other, is a monumental task. It would require hundreds of technicians across the country and several hundred more in Ottawa. And do not forget that the parties have to be able to hold private caucuses.

Our parliamentarians are already learning from virtual committee meetings. No doubt they will be ready for a virtual parliament by the time the coronavirus has run its course.

And as for Chuckles, he is the forgotten man.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me