Weekend Reflections

I can tell you many things, but the one truth I will share with you today is………… This blogging thing is turning into a humbling experience for me.

I’ve been on Facebook this morning, and, of course, the great majority of comments that I’m receiving about my blog are from friends on Facebook. A very few from outside my Facebook circle, but then again, its early days so we’ll see.

Naturally, some of those friends are family, so they’re used to my yammering on about all things political in this and other countries. After all, I’ve never been shy about expressing a political opinion, and my family (immediate and extended) were always the first victims of my unfiltered opinions.

A fair number of my Facebook friends are “political friends” – some Progressive Conservatives, some Conservatives (and yes, here in Canada there is a difference) some Liberal (yes, I have many Liberal political friends) and some New Democratic friends (of which I have a few). If you spend your adult life working as a professional political organizer or as a professional political staffer, it is impossible not to make friends in all political circles. So, I have a goodly number of political friends of all political stripes, and I have nothing but respect for those who take an interest, or participate, in the political process. In today’s Social Media environment, and with our 24-hour news cycle, those of us who put ourselves out there to perform public service are fair game for all kinds of abuse, and it takes considerable courage to put your name on a ballot for public office. I don’t agree with my political friends in all things, all the time, but I have nothing but respect for them, no matter their political affiliation.

Another segment of my Facebook friends is really an extension of my political activity, I think. I mean I have worked (and moved my family to) Newfoundland, Ottawa, British Columbia and now Ontario, and I have been politically active throughout the years, but my family and I have always been lucky enough to be accepted into a host of different social and church circles, always making lifelong friends that I stay in touch with.

And, of course, there are my childhood friends that I’ve re-connected with on Facebook. In some ways, that’s been the most fun of all. Oh dear, to be back in high school, where all we had to worry about was who we were going to take to the dance this weekend, eh? Or when we’d get to play our next game of basketball.

I’m grateful for my friends, and I’m thankful that Facebook and other social media outlets have given me a platform to express an opinion. But it is humbling, and here’s why.

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly now, I’ve spent the whole of my adult life (or most of it, anyways) working in a political capacity, and politics is if nothing else a partisan, team sport. Everything that I have written over the years – speeches, press releases, policy positions, government White Papers – has been done for the benefit of the politician or government that I was working for. Some of my work was considered very good, some merely good enough, and some very bad (depending on the politician or election campaign that I was working for) but I was always working for someone else.

I’ve written speeches that I’ve poured my heart and soul into, but I have never given (that) a speech that would have advanced my personal political views. I’ve written press releases announcing government policy (or whatever), but that has always served different governments’ collective interests. The same can be said for policy position papers and the like. Everything is produced, announced, distributed, promoted and defended in a collective way, and that’s the way it must be in our democratic, parliamentary system of government.

So, what am I saying here? I’m saying that I’ve always been the team player, writing, advancing, announcing, promoting and defending political positions – some of which I believed wholeheartedly, some I believed most of but not all, some I believed were total BS but needed to go out anyways, and some of which I totally disagreed with. But in the best interests of the politician and/or government that I was working for at the time, it went out. Period.

And now, here I am, an older version of my much younger politically active self, and for the first time in my life I’m publishing my own words under my own name, and I must own every written word. I have nowhere to hide, and reaction to my blog has been mixed – mostly good, but some critical and damning.  Never the less, I’m encouraged.

I will not pretend that I’ve had “hits” in the thousands. That would be an impressive lie, worthy of Donald Trump. But for someone who has 264 friends on Facebook, the response has been positive, and I am encouraged enough to keep going.

The most prominent question I’m receiving, repeatedly, is “How can you be objective?”

Well, perhaps I can’t be objective given my history, but I’m going to give it a try. I can tell you that I am no longer a card-carrying supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada. In simple terms, and sort of paraphrasing Ronald Regan referencing the Democratic Party in the US, I didn’t leave the Conservative Party of Canada as much as they left me. It seems to me that the new Conservative Party’s ideology has left me behind. I am no longer a Conservative, but nor am I a Liberal. If I had to describe myself right now, I would say that I’m an old-fashioned small l liberal democrat.

I no longer like to call myself a Conservative for several reasons, none of them attractive I’m sorry to say. Certainly, the rise of Donald Trump to the top of the political world and the Republican Party in the United States is a big factor for me. I am appalled with the political stupidity of the American people who support Trump and all that he has come to stand for. Where has the Party of Lincoln gone?

Conservative movements ALWAYS flow across the Canada/US border, and we are already experiencing some of the negative effects of Trumpism here in Canada. We are starting to feel an anti-immigrant sentiment; we are starting to see the beginnings of a negative blowback to the #MeToo movement; and I believe we are experiencing incidents of racism towards our Jewish, Muslim and Indigenous communities, but we are too politely Canadian to really call it racism. We prefer to call such racist happenings “isolated occurrences”. In other words, they happen, but we don’t really mean for them to happen.

So, I will continue to comment in what I consider to be an objective way, and I welcome your feedback in whatever form you wish to share. I will be responsive to your views, and I will be humbly apologetic for any offense I give.  But humble I will be.

Above all else, thank you for your interest.

Trust In Government

What do we have if we don’t have trust?

Trust is fundamental in every aspect of our lives, I think.

It’s true in and for our personal relationships, whether we’re talking about marriages, family relations, friendships or political allegiances. We wouldn’t have personal relationships if we didn’t develop a certain degree of trust. But when something happens to those personal relationships, and trust is broken, the relationship is often irreparably broken, and things are never the same simply because they can never be the same. That’s human nature at work.

I think the same is true when we consider our trust levels regarding our financial well being, and in our social circles as well. We would never again deal with a bank, for example, if we felt that a financial institution that we’ve dealt with for years suddenly “ripped us off”. Or if we suddenly lost a small fortune because our financial advisor made a series of bad decisions on our behalf. Or we wouldn’t shop at a grocery store that we’ve been buying from for years if we suddenly ended up with a food product that gave the whole family food poisoning.

I’m sure you get the point. We make everyday decisions, as well as very big life decisions, based on the level of trust we have in a relationship, and in every other institutional aspect of our lives. Governments included!

This morning I’m reading that on Monday of this week, Ipsos-Reid conducted a public opinion poll that shows two-thirds of Canadians say Justin Trudeau has lost the moral authority to govern. The issue at hand, of course, is the SNC-Lavalin saga, the Prime Minister’s treatment of his former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, and his very awkward handling of everything that came rolling out of Ottawa for the past three weeks. And might I remind you, this poll was conducted BEFORE now ex-Minister Jane Philpott resigned from the Federal Cabinet, sharing on her way out the door that she could no longer support the Prime Minister because of a matter of trust.

So, there you have it. All but the most hardened partisan Liberal supporter now doubts the Prime Minister’s leadership and moral authority, and without doubt, this will cause panic and concern within the partisan ranks of the Liberal Party.

So, what’s next? Given the depth and strength of social media, and our political parties’ expertise in using social media to their advantage, I expect that we will see an onslaught of partisan Bullcrap aimed squarely at Andrew Sheer, the leader of the Federal Conservatives. And this onslaught will have little of substance to offer; it will just be a negative onslaught.

If Donald Trump has taught us anything on the political stage, it is this – if you’re doing it wrong, or if you’re not necessarily acting in the best interests of your own government, or if you are doing something that skirts the rule of law or simply flat-out breaks the law, go on the attack and make the other guy look like an idiot. This makes the other guy defend him/herself and shifts the focus away from the offender or (suspected) guilty party. You don’t have to get specific, you just must go mega-negative. Nothing else matters, but above all else, you must be more negative than the transgressions you’ve committed. That, my friends, is now the new bench-mark of how we conduct partisan AND non-partisan politics in North America.

And please don’t pretend that we’re Canadian, not American, and we would never do anything like that. There is a government at stake, and the stakes are high. When the stakes are this high, any political party will do whatever it takes to win the next election.

So, the negative attacks will come now, with more vigor than we’ve seen so far. Andrew Sheer will be compared to Trump and he will be accused of privatizing our health care system, stopping the climate change agenda dead in its track, and God forbid, he will even approve oil pipe lines across the country. He will be compared to that right-wing lunatic, Doug Ford, the now Premier of Ontario but still the brother of that other right-wing idiot Rob Ford. Never mind that the only thing of note that Andrew Scheer has done so far in Canadian politics is to get himself elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

The attacks will suggest it is acceptable to bend our morals a little if it means we get to keep everything – surely? Please Canadian voter – DO THE RIGHT THING and turn a blind eye to our Liberal treatment of the Rule of Law or we will lose it all.

I can’t wait to see the first social media attack that will compare Andrew Sheer to Stalin.

We all have a choice here. We can participate in the circus that is coming, or not.
But for those of us who choose to participate, we must ask ourselves at what price? Is not the Rule of Law a fundamental pillar in any democratic society? If we turn a blind eye to what’s been going on in Ottawa for the past three weeks, are we no better than the Donald Trump Republicans who believe in power at any cost?

Trust is the most precious of human emotions, and if you have it, things are golden. But if you don’t……….

Finally, Real Change?

A couple of days ago, while sitting idly drinking coffee on a lazy Sunday morning, I reached out and did something I rarely do on a Sunday, or any other morning for that matter. I picked up a copy of the Sunday Edition of the Toronto Star, that great promoter and protector of all things LARGE L LIBERAL both Federally and Provincially here in Upper Canada.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to abandon my partisan Conservative leanings and accept that someone other than my politically like-minded friends might have something interesting to say. Every now and again, though, I come across a gem that needs to be read, digested and nurtured, and then accepted as possibly being a thought worthy of consideration.

The piece to which I refer was written by Royson James, a columnist with the Toronto Star, and it was titled A Challenge To The Old Boys Club. The premise of James’ column goes something like this:

Canada, and Canadian society, has become more diverse as we mature as a country, but our diversity has had little influence on our traditional political power structures or our decision-making processes. The Jody Wilson-Raybould appointment to Cabinet, however, showed a marked shift in the way Canada would conduct its political business.

This thread of thought is easy to follow. Prior to the last Federal Election, Justine Trudeau’s new Liberal organization spent a considerable amount of time recruiting a “different” kind of political team. Trudeau promised Canadians that the Liberals were going to do things differently. The new Liberal team would be inclusive, diverse, close to being gender neutral (meaning as many women as possible), and finally and most importantly, that there would be a return to real government by Cabinet, where Cabinet Ministers would fully participate in the operations of the Government of Canada, as opposed to the “top down” system of government that had evolved in Ottawa over the years whereby the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office ran the whole show and simply told Cabinet Ministers, and everyone else, what to do.

Jody Wilson-Raybould just happened to be a law school graduate, a former Regional Chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, and a former Crown Prosecutor well versed in the concept of upholding the Rule of Law. She was the ideal “New Liberal” candidate.  But she was also a strong and accomplished woman from a background that couldn’t be different from the Old Boys Club that has been in charge of Ottawa since 1867.

It may be another story for another day, but I – an old Conservative hack no less – felt like a proud, a very proud, no indeed, a very very proud Canadian, the day Jody Wilson-Raybould was sworn in as our new Minister of Justice and Attorney General.  In a way, this was my “Canadian Obama” moment, and although some people may never understand what I’m saying here, I took Wilson-Raybould’s appointment personally.  In a good way, I assure you.

So, we know the story.  Ms. Wilson-Raybould was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament in Vancouver Granville in October of 2015 and then appointed to Cabinet as our Minister of Justice and Attorney General. Like all Canadians, Ms. Wilson-Raybould was told that we were living in the new political Canada; a Canada where everyone, including those who are strong, educated, experienced and of different gender and ethnic background, could call the shots. She was the new Attorney General in the new utopia, and she would be Canada’s Chief Prosecutor, our protector of the rule of law, and she would be allowed to do her job without political interference.

And then along came the SNC-Lavalin saga. That story does not need repeating here, other than to say that certain people (meaning the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary, the Clerk of the Privy Council, and others in the Prime Minister’s Office) wanted the Attorney General to ignore the rule of law in favour of political expediency in winning Liberal seats (including the Prime Minister’s seat) in Quebec.

What does need to be said though, if I can use a Newfoundland colloquialism, is that Trudeau has managed to cut a switch to whip his own arse.

You cannot preach to the masses that you are going to conduct government business differently, then recruit non-traditional candidates (meaning candidates who are not career politicians but accomplished professionals in their own right), then tell them they are in charge of their respective portfolios, and then, finally, pull the rug out from under them and expect that they will simply do political business the way it has always been done in Ottawa – meaning the Old Boys Network is still in charge. It is now clear, to all but the most partisan of Liberals, that all of Trudeau’s utopian chatter for the past three and a half years turns out to be Bullcrap.

Royson James has paid Wilson-Raybould the highest compliment here. I simply cannot say it better, so I will quote:
Jody Wilson-Raybould – a lawyer and former Crown attorney, standing on roots that spread deep into the Indigenous community, vastly exceeding political qualifications that sometimes have neophytes and incompetents hold serious positions of power and import – was having none of it. Guided by a different compass, she refused to go along.

This will become a hard lesson for Justine Trudeau. In politics, you simply cannot change the political model and expect that things will no change. And that’s exactly what Trudeau and his PMO tried to do.

Even hardened Conservatives are disappointed in this turn of events.

The Political Games We Play

As some of you may know, I have spent a considerable amount of my adult life completely immersed in the game of Canadian Politics – sometimes at the Provincial level and sometimes at the Federal level.

For those of us who work in politics on a full-time basis, we find and take great comfort in becoming (and mostly remaining) part of a team. Many of you out there, (meaning you, the voter) may think politics to be a wonderful forum for narcissistic behaviour, but even Prime Ministers, Premiers and Mayors need a political team to get nominated, elected and yes, to be able to govern.

For better or worst, through factors such as my physical location (Newfoundland), issues of the day (Provincial ownership of offshore oil and gas deposits) and the people I knew who were already politically active, I became part of a Progressive Conservative team in the early years of my political involvement. In later years I’ve found it extremely hard to leave my Conservative team and friends behind, although there are days…… In retirement, as progressive and social issues become more import to my cohort, I find it more and more difficult to simply tow the Party line.

My point here is, in all my years of involvement with the Progressive Conservative Party, the Reform Party, the Alliance Party, and finally the Conservative Party of Canada, I have never been able to embrace or believe with a convert’s feverish conviction every crazy policy position put forward by my political party of the day.

Never doubt, however, that every word or policy position put forward by any political party serves one purpose only – and that is to get elected. In the case of a political party serving in government, that purpose is to get re-elected. So, I know the joke is that if a politician’s lips are moving he’s lying.  But the truth is, if a politician is saying something, 99.9% of the time he or she is asking for your political support. In plain English, that politician is asking for your vote. And rest assured, as a political staffer or a political organizer, I was often the one writing those crazy policy positions. In politics, you don’t have to believe it to write it or say it. All that matters is that someone, somewhere will agree with what you are saying or writing.

This is where being part of the team becomes imperative for people who participate in the game. Being part of the team very often keeps you within a system of checks and balances where extreme behaviours and/or positions are hard to achieve.

In spite of all this, it is my experience the very great majority of politicians and/or political staff who fight the great partisan political wars daily are good people. They are good people who are interested in and dedicated to public service. They may have different political views (either left or right, conservative or progressive) but their honourable intentions, for the most part, should never be in doubt. Most politicians and/or political staff want to do the right thing.

What does this mean, to do the right thing? Well, there are a host of rules or mottos that all democratic parties follow when promoting the public good, but “back in the day” the line most used went something like this: Government’s responsibility is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Naturally, all political parties claim that they want to do the greatest good, so different policy approaches make for different political parties.

Through the different policy approaches by the different political parties comes another agreed upon rule – Government must ALWAYS uphold the rule of law.

In a democratic republic, a parliamentary democracy, or a democratic monarchy, governments must successfully uphold the rule of law. In fact, I would go as far as to say that most of our time in Canada, the United States and most other Western democracies, the rule of law applies.

Please note! I said, “most of the time”. Sometimes the system fails, and the application of the “rule of law” most often fails when it comes time to get re-elected.

We now have a situation here in Canada where it is alleged that great pressure was exerted on a former Attorney General, Jodi Wilson-Raybould, to change a legal determination to favour the Liberal Party of Canada’s chances for re-election. If this allegation is true, and from a personal standpoint I cannot see how it is not true, this coming October voters will be asked to condone or condemn the Liberal Party’s actions to ignore the rule of law.

But…… no matter the outcome, those who play for the Liberal Team here will remain loyal Liberal spokespersons, say whatever they are asked to say in defense of the Liberal Party, and promote and spout whatever Liberal propaganda they are given. I offer them no ill will here. I freely admit that I did the same for my Conservative Party friends for years.

I have never meet Jodi Wilson-Raybould, but I wish I had. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to meet her somewhere down the road.

Jodi Wilson-Raybould is a woman of exceptional principle, conviction and courage. She has my full support in doing what it is she is doing, and without a doubt, will be the subject of another of my many blogs to come.

I often wish that I had had the passion and courage that Jodi Wilson-Raybould has displayed during these past three weeks as the SNC-Lavalin story unfolded.  It is certain that speaking her truth was not the former Minister taking her path of least resistance.

The whole of the Liberal Party of Canada (the Team) has come out swinging at her after her appearance before the Justice Committee.   Every effort is being made to discredit her in the eyes of voters, and more’s the pity.

Today I’m on Team Wilson-Raybould, and the stakes are high.  But today I’m also a happy man.  Finally, finally, a politician who is not afraid to stand up for the rule of law even at the risk of electoral harm.

 

 

 

 

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It’s A Wonder Canada Survives

Kelly McParland, the very learned columnist from the National Post, was kind enough this morning to remind me of a modern-day wonder – and that is, “social media can only handle one outburst of moral fervour at a time”.

McParland’s point, with which I am in full agreement, is that the country is enamoured with the Jodi Wilson-Raybould saga, which is Ottawa focused and concerns an infamous Quebec engineering firm whose business practices are so well known most Canadians know them by name. As an average-Joe, I will be the first to admit that I am hard pressed to name even one other engineering firm that is Canadian based/owned, but I can name SNC-Lavalin and even spell it correctly.

Never mind the many legal, ethical or social implications of what the Liberals are doing in the Wilson-Raybould affair. We have an election coming in October of this year, and electoral seats are at stake in Quebec. It all makes for great drama, and Upper and Lower Canada are mentally occupied with possible outcomes. What could possibly be more important outside Ontario and Quebec?

Well, to McParland’s point, the most important thing to happen in Canada in the last week has hardly been noticed by the media or any other persons having even a passing interest in public affairs.

As it happens, the National Energy Board’s “Reconsideration” of its ruling on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was released late last week, and it has gone mostly un-noticed in the centre of the country.

This, I might remind you, is the same pipeline that Trudeau’s Liberals paid a hefty $4.5 Billion of taxpayers’ money to acquire. In essence, this is Canada’s pipeline, and the only people who seem to give a hoot about it live in Western Canada where Liberal seats are a rarity. Go figure! You can bet your last dollar that the Liberals didn’t buy the Trans Mountain because it was being generous on behalf of Western Canadians.  And never mind that Western Canada’s resource-based economy (meaning, mostly oil and gas) remains the economic engine of the country.

So, let’s add insult to injury and throw in Bill C-69, the great Liberal defender of all things “climate change’ related.  Disguised as a carbon tax but in reality another Liberal scheme for wealth distribution (the subject of another blog to come), Bill C-69 will add yet another layer of regulatory restraint on natural resource development in Western Canada and other provinces where manufacturing and service sector jobs are not an option. I’m sure if we look hard enough, we can find even more roadblocks to development that we can throw in the mix, because God forbid, Central Canada becomes concerned about jobs and economic development in a province other than Ontario or Quebec.

As regards the SNC-Lavalin saga, Trudeau and the Liberals (which now includes the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick) were willing to do whatever it takes to protect the 10,000 or so jobs that are tied to that company.

In 2017, SNC-Lavalin had revenues in the order of $9 Billion, 15% of which concerned government. If SNC-Lavalin were denied government contracts, that would still leave a healthy revenue stream for the company even if they were denied federal government contracts.

In the case of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, for which Canadian taxpayers paid $4.5 Billion, and which will generate an estimated 8,000 jobs during the expansion construction period, Western Canadians are given Bill C-69 (more regulation) and more consultation and negotiation with indigenous and environmental groups – all designed to slow approvals and actual construction.

Who is speaking for Western Canada in all of this? Ralph Goodall, our Minister of Public Safety and Saskatchewan’s representative in the Federal Cabinet, is silent. Amarjeet Sohi, our Minister of Natural Resources of all things, is Alberta’s representative in the Federal Cabinet. Where is the outrage?

I long for the days of Brian Peckford, Peter Lougheed, Bill Bennet and Bill Davis. You could have agreed with them, or not, or supported them, or not, but the one thing neither of those gentlemen would have given you was their silence in defense of their provinces. If Peter Lougheed were still Premier of Alberta, we would at least be entertained with his political outrage. Instead, we are forced to listen to Rachel Notley’s kitten like ‘meow’ as she tries to explain here disappointment with the Trans Mountain Pipeline ‘reconsideration’.

This is one hell of a way to run a country. The Federal Government has the constitutional power to ensure the construction and completion of the pipeline that they own, and which could and would ensure the economic prosperity of the country. However, the Feds refuse to use that power because doing so, or not, will not change the electoral landscape.

At the same time, Trudeau and the Liberals are willing to do whatever it takes to protect SNC-Lavalin while protecting Liberal seats in Quebec. And that story is more important to the country??????

And Upper and Lower Canada are as silent as our Western Canadian representatives in the Federal Cabinet.

How have we survived as a country for the past 152 years?

I Have Chosen Life As We Now Know It

The Internet is a wonderful thing. But like most 67 year old, white, middle class male Canadians, I have had an irrational fear of that which I don’t really understand – meaning, 98% of all things Web related.

I think I use social media. I do have a smart phone that I use for phone calls and texting, and I admit to using the mysterious device for an occasional visit to my Gmail. I do have Facebook and Messenger apps on my smart phone, but again I hardly use them. For me, email, Facebook and Messenger are better accessed using my laptop, and occasionally my tablet. Which only goes to prove that my smart phone is much smarter than I am, or else I’d be smart enough to have all of my “web related” activities confined to one device.

I’m sure you’re getting the picture here. I mostly pretend that I’m familiar with the workings of these mysterious devices, and I love to think that I’m hip enough to keep up with the young crowd by using Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I could actually reconnect with friends from forty and fifty years ago, and have a conversation as if I had seen those people only yesterday.

So here I am. A mostly retired white, privileged, middle class, fairly educated and moderately successful Canadian male. Like most Canadians of my vintage, I have had a number of distinct careers; in law enforcement, in sales, in politics as both an organizer and as a political staffer at the federal and provincial levels, and finally as a “cog in a wheel ” at a major multi-national pharmaceutical company operating in Canada. Throughout these careers I have enjoyed many, many successes, and like most people in life, as many failures along the way. As we say in politics, “I’ve been to the top of the greasy pole. But the slide down to the bottom of the pole is much quicker than the climb to the top”.

In all of this personal confusion of not really knowing how to use social media and the various high tech devices that are at my disposal, I’ve decided that I do have a story to tell, and opinions to share. I’ve decided to start this blog with two goals in mind.

First, like others of my mindset, I’ve decided that I do have opinions that I want to share, and a blog is the perfect forum to give those who have no voice a platform to find a voice.

And secondly, this blog will be very educational in that it will teach me how to use social media. I want to understand the power of social media in a meaning and positive way.

I cannot promise that all of my thoughts and opinions will be original, but where I draw upon other peoples’ work, thoughts and prayers, I will give credit where credit is due.

To you, dear readers (assuming you are outside my normal very small circle of friends and family) I wish you well. Please accept my ramblings for what they are meant to be – some serious opinions being throwns out into the wilderness of the internet, and an occasion attempt at humour (of which I’ve often been accused of having little).

Let’s wish each other well as I embark on this literary journey.