Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Religion, Politics and Leadership.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

The admonition to never bring religion and politics into a conversation is a lot of B.S. They are two very interesting subjects and they are ever present in our daily lives—not only in Canada but around the world. In some countries, the subjects of religion and politics are the same subject. In China and Russia, for example, politics has replaced most religious practice. In countries such as Israel and Iran, religion appears to control the politics.

One of the benefits Canada offers is the clear trend to separate politics from religion. We are certainly not free of all biases about religion but I feel our growing tolerance is a work in progress. While fewer of us are taking part in organized religion today, there is no question but the many religions observed in Canada bring values to us.

And now we can get to our subject for the day: leadership.

We have already discussed the federal liberal and conservative leaders in previous commentaries and it is time to bring up Jagmeet Singh of the new democratic party.

Jagmeet is an observant Sikh. That means he follows the teachings of the Tenth Guru of Sikhism. This includes the uncut hair, the wooden comb, the iron bracelet, the undershorts and the symbolic knives. There are many fine qualities to the Sikh religion. While based on a warrior ethic, it teaches tolerance and protecting the poor and downtrodden, no matter the religion or caste. It is a religion where every woman is a princess and every man a lion.

And as an educated Canadian, Jagmeet Singh, can count. He looked at the less than 100,000 members of the new democratic party during the last leadership contest and realized that his supporters, with ties to the Indian Sub-Continent in British Columbia and Ontario alone, numbered more than 200,000. He simply had to swamp the membership of his party with new sign-ups from this cohesive group to win the leadership of the NDP. And he did.

In Toronto, we considered it the ethnic edge. It is why someone with an Italian name ran in certain ridings and Anglo names in others. I never approved of that way of choosing candidates. I still don’t. I want my MPs and MLAs to represent everyone in their electoral district.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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Pick your battles.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

If you want to win, in war or in politics, you pick the battles you can win. Losers fight any battle that comes along. It is the problem facing the major opposition parties in the coming election. It is a special problem for conservative leader Erin O’Toole. He is between the proverbial rock and the hard place.

O’Toole’s conservatives need an environmental platform that will convince eastern Canada that the party is sincere about saving the world from greenhouse gasses. At the same time, they have to convince the climate change deniers in the west that, under the conservatives, they can continue to pump up the bitumen from the tar sands and knock down mountains for coal.

‘Simple,’ you say? You must be forgetting the master-servant relationship between Erin O’Toole and Alberta premier Jason Kenney. Who do you think touched O’Toole’s shoulders with the sword of approval during the recent conservative leadership contest? It was Jason Kenney who gave O’Toole the Western Blessing. It was a Jason Kenney who was riding high in the saddle at the time and could promise O’Toole those western votes.

Jason Kenney might have fallen on bad times recently; but never forget, he is still one of the slipperiest politicians in Canada. When Stephen Harper was making his retirement plans in 2015, Kenney was plotting his triumphant return to Alberta.

The federal new democrats have a different problem as they have had the Leap Manifesto since 2016. A radical environmental approach, the party still does not know what to do with it. At the time it was introduced, leader Tom Mulcair was trying to stake out a middle of the road platform and the Leap Manifesto was too radical for him. No doubt, Jagmeet Singh would like to revive the manifesto now. The question is, Jagmeet might lead with it but whether the party would follow is a different question.

The best bet for the opposition parties is a ‘Cap and Trade’ policy. We already have that in Quebec and British Columbia. Ontario was also partnered with Quebec and California in a ‘Cap and Trade’ plan until the Ford conservatives came to power and cancelled it. Like most Canadians, Ford did not understand it. That might help the opposition get voters to support it.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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The solidarity of the right.

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Is Erin O’Toole a fool? The conservative leader would not be so stupid as to reject the support of the extreme right of the conservative party? Yet we read that he does not think he needs them. It was that kind of thinking that enabled Preston Manning to create the reform party in 1987. It encouraged the breakaway of the wildrose party in Alberta in 2008. It has encouraged Canadians to always watch Alberta for the best fun and games in politics.

But the astute political observer will tell you that Alberta voters have been paying the price ever since. It is more than the conclusion that in the West, the right would rather fight. And it explains why Maxime Bernier’s people’s party has such a large number of supporters in Alberta.

O’Toole needs to talk to Stephen Harper. It was not until Harper suckered Peter MacKay into bringing the right wing of Canadian politics under the conservative party of Canada umbrella that it was able to defeat the liberals and form a government that lasted almost ten years.

And bear in mind that the conservative party is not just there to give Canadians respite from the liberals. There are a lot of mean and selfish people in Canada who want government out of their pockets. There are also the social conservatives who want to deny others an abortion, their right to medically assisted dying or any religion, if that is their choice.

There are also those who have no understanding of debt and rail against those who willingly commit to paying for some amenities over years rather than paying as they go.

Mr. O’Toole has previously told Canadians that he sees the conservative party as a ‘big tent’ party able to accommodate the extremes of conservatism. And yet many of these conservative voters have no idea of the ideology behind this party of their parents.

As voters, each of us has a responsibility to elect the best person to represent all the people in their constituency. If you prefer to elect the person who just represents a party, you can have the next four years to regret it.


Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

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O’Toole’s new hue of blue.

Friday, October 9th, 2020

Erin O’Toole, the new conservative party leader brought a new hue of blue to parliament on his late arrival. Delayed by covid-19, the conservative leader brought a new approach to the minority parliament. Where catcalls and rudeness have prevailed for so long, the new leader brought reason, conciliation and understanding. It was an approach to politics readily understood by most Ontario politicos over 50. It was the politics of former Ontario premier William Davis.

Bill Davis turned 91 this year and while his health might not be the best, his legacy in Ontario continues to be honoured. It all boiled down to one word: decency. He was conservative premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985 and he made sure Queen’s Park during that time was a friendly place. In those years, I worked closely with the liberal caucus under Bob Nixon and, when at Queen’s Park, I often had a friendly word with people on Bill Davis’ or NDP leader Stephen Lewis’ staff.

But I think for Erin O’Toole, sincere or not, this approach will be a hard sell to his caucus, his supporters and his provincial conservative backers. Today’s political divide is too broad, the acrimony too deep and the distrust ingrained.

Too many of the conservative caucus are former Steven Harper MPs who went through the hard-fought years of his partisan governments which dealt more with conservative ideology than the needs of Canadians. O’Toole was there for the last and in cabinet in that final four years.

It is hard to imagine that he would not realize the difference in style he is trying to utilize from that of the provincial conservatives where they are in power. This is with some of the provincial conservative governments routinely condemning the federal liberals for their efforts on climate change, bringing lawsuits to the supreme court and even putting advertising stickers on all provincial gas pumps condemning the carbon tax—until the practice was stopped by the courts.

Mind you, this kinder, gentler conservatism might be just to impress the voters. Time will tell.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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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?


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

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