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December 2014

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Leadership: A Christmas Wish

Written by , Posted in Leadership, Sustainability

Leadership: A Christmas Wish

 

Politics and religion, those conversation that are off limits for dinner conversations at Christmas. Well at least the former. It’s a conversation that can ruin many a relationship. Hell, I had a neighbour when I was growing up that had a picture of a former Prime Minister on the wall. Not something I’d have, but then I’m not politically inclined.

When it comes to politics however, I can say I have personally known a few, solicited some for help for my farm, helped a few for their campaign. To those I nod my head, acknowledging that the following letter may not apply. For others however, once read, you know who you are. With luck, your ears will burn and you will hang your head.(Yes, I know that isn’t likely, but one could only hope.) Herein lies my Christmas wish for our political leaders.

You’ve all seen it of late, scandal after scandal. 2014 seemed to have more than it’s fare share of questionable acts perpetrated by our elected officials. Though sick now, Rob Ford is known around the world for his antics in office as the Mayor of Toronto, Canada’s largest city. At the provincial level in Ontario, we have the gas plants that lost a boatload of money to move from one location to another. And the lies told to cover it up and then the money spent to cover that up. Can you imagine? It is alleged that our provincial government spent money to erase computers that held evidence of wrongdoings. It is even alleged that our previous and current Premiers were somehow connected.

At the federal level there is currently a campaign to determine who paid some of our Prime Minister’s campaign costs in the last federal election as his conviction for fighting climate change wanes. Furthermore, we consistently have federal ministers in the news with questions of election expenses not to mention the senators who are currently in hot water over the inappropriate expenses they have claimed as well as the implication that one of the Prime Minister’s legal aids actually paid off one senator’s invalid claims.

But then at what level must we take responsibility for our politicians. I’m not saying we have to coddle them like children, but the images of them screaming at each other during question period or politicking around disasters… no, the government didn’t save the world from Sars or Ebola, but boy you’d think they were on the front lines handing out bottled water or looking through microscope lenses.

Years ago when mad cow disease closed the boarder to Canadian beef, the government swooshed in with a flare and told everyone how they were going to bail out the farming industry. The cheques started to roll in with gold plated ink, but then the insurance program that the farmers were already a part of by paying premiums ratcheted back the payouts by the amounts the government had paid. Yes, all those promises of saving the industry were flat in the pan and amounted only to a getting funds a few months before the insurance programs would normally trigger. Farms still went bankrupt from the disaster that not being able to sell their product causes. In fact, because of the politicking and photo ops, the farmers plight was worsened because no truly viable alternative for sustainability was explored when the country’s citizens believed the situation fixed.

Farming isn’t the only thing that our elected leaders play the big fish game with. Yes you caught a fish that was THIS big honourable ma’am or sir. You tell the public you will give a million dollars to something as if it’s new money and yet half of that was already slated through other programs. You make every opportunity a photo op and yet you don’t realize the damage it does to your constituents.

Isn’t it time that politicking took a back seat to doing the right thing? Don’t make it about what you did for society today. In fact don’t use my money to tell me what you did today. You were elected. I expect you to do those things as your job. If I knew you would need a pat on the back every time you did something for the work you are paid to do then I would have hired someone else.

I’m not sure what it’s like in other countries, but here in Canada, our federal members of Parliament qualify for full pension after six years of service. Full. North of $100,000 a year. In Ontario our provincial members of parliament may not get a pension like other provinces, but they are given severance packages when they leave. I have heard of only one politician on the federal side actually donating their federal income to charity.

Elected politicians are sent to Ottawa or Toronto as a member of their party. They were first elected to their local party riding as a representative long before their community elected them to the government. That said, I can appreciate that there are times when you cannot agree with your leader and in Canada we have the freedom of speech such that it is you right, nae, your responsibility to say something when your leader fails to do their own duty. When such things happen, I can see a member of parliament (MP) or member of provincial parliament (MPP) moving to sit as an independent, however to cross the floor to sit with another party is a betrayal to your party, your riding and to the people who elected you. As a result of leaving ones party, should there not be an immediate election call for your riding? Are you not going to your real boss, the people, and quitting? If you want to run for the other team. Be my guest, but don’t say you are doing the will of the people, they only tell you that at election time. Want to be vindicated in your decision? Sit as an independent until next election. The people will tell you whether you’ve done the right thing.

Anyone with children can tell you how irritating squabbling over something inconsequential can be. Politicians take that concept to a whole new level. It’s like they’ve forgotten who they are. They punch in like Wile E Coyote (Ralph Wolf) and Sam Sheepdog. Outside of work everyone can play nice, but within those vaulted halls… work suits on, claws out.

We teach our children to have discussions. We tell everyone that bullying and badgering is unacceptable. We ask people to use inside voices and not to call names. Why haven’t you learned that lesson yet?

For our country to remain sustainable we have to have a robust government. The way I see it, we need a little more responsibility at the top to achieve that. Honesty and integrity might help a little too. My Christmas wish for our government officials this year is this: we need you, but more importantly, we need you to grow up.

  • Richard

    There has been recent noises about the need for common’s reform. Since the cameras were put in, they just play to that. Members behave like unruly school children, no meaningfull business gets conducted. It’s all about optics. Feeding at the public trough trumps personal ethics.

    • John Kent

      It’s great for us to say there is a problem, but the next step is to take action, isn’t it? Is it time to say goodbye to the current system? A friend of mine suggested once that we have the technology these days that we could vote on the issues of the day as we eat our breakfast. The people would be empowered to do their own will. Politicians would only bring the ideas to the people, communicating what bills are available and spend their days educating the public on what the implications of voting one way or the other. There would be no ranting at each other in the house, because there would be no house. Then again, there is always the option that we tie a politician’s pay to a different structure. Perhaps they should be paid on how much they work? And by work, I mean the amount they spend in their constituency office speaking to the people who elected them.

  • Richard

    Has everyone by now heard about the gray tsunami about to engulf our health care system? As the baby boomers move through the system, there is real concern about meeting demands. In the local paper, The Chronicle Journal, of Thunder Bay, there is a section under living called helping hands. It features non-profit organizations requests for volunteers. On Monday past, there are pleas for help from no less than 29 groups. These include shelter house for the homeless, CNIB,Canadian Cancer society, the hospital, nursing homes, clothing assistance, Red Cross, Hospice,meals on wheels, support services, diabetes association, and on and on.

    Our current system is broken. These important public services can’t operate without volunteer labour. What if no one volunteered? Our political masters are always telling us how much they do for us. There is an obvious lack of government support for these important programs. Jean Chretian was always proud to say we live in the best country in the world. A society is measured by how it treats it’s weakest members. I think we have a ways to go until we can believe this is the best there is.

    Christmas time usually sees an uptick in charitable donations and I’m sure the help is deeply appreciated. However, help is needed all year. Why not have adequate funding in place instead of hoping and depending on charity, both in financial and labour donations?

    • John Kent

      Thank you for your comment Richard.

      While I have already expressed my concern over our political leadership, when it comes to programs I have to admit there is a finite amount of money available. There has to be a juggling act of income and expense. Can we raise taxes? Especially in poor times when the economy is so fragile? Perhaps we could cut more from the budget. What programs shall we cut? Health care? Police services? Cutting services entirely is a dangerous game, but we could look at efficiencies. Much like the corporate world, we could certainly look at making the government more efficient. That said, it would be a complex process, one that will take time and someone would have to set the standards, but whom? The people who will lose their jobs? Unfortunately as our society grows, so too does the demand for social programs.

      While I question the income bracket that our elected officials live in, there is an argument to be made that we would lose those good leaders to other vocations if their paycheques were to shrink. Pay freezes might work in good economic times, but not in questionable times. Pay cuts never embolden a stable system.

      I certainly believe we need to hold our elected officials to a higher standard so we get more from them. With more work accomplished then perhaps we could solve some of those questions like how we can spread the money just a little further.

      If our current system is broken, we can’t really remake it in one complete overhaul, but can we afford the time to do it bit by bit, with every successive government adding their own piece to the house of cards? I guess that’s a topic for another blog.

  • Lisa

    Draconian measures! Let us ensure our own right conduct, and behave like adults ourselves. How can we expect more from our politicians than what we are willing to do ourselves? (Have we not squabbled, wasted money, cheated, lied, abused power, and done favours for our friends?)

    • John Kent

      Thank you for your comment Lisa. Although I do agree that we as a society should hold ourselves to a higher standard, I expect yet more from our leadership. I say that as Western civilization is increasingly being defined as the new Roman empire, living unsustainably. Someone has to stand up as a role model for the next generation of leaders so they learn to compromise, work efficiently, tell the truth, work within their bounds, the rules, and their moral compasses.