How Could You?

I will be the first to admit that there is much about this world that I simply DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

For example, in what I consider to be the First World, meaning in those countries leading the world in economic growth, educational opportunities and scientific advancement, populations are generally well educated, and middle class prosperous. We may, and do, have differences of opinion on political matters so we often disagree on ideology. We also often differ on matters relating to religious belief, but we manage to live peacefully (mostly) with our neighbours.

We have available to us the best of medical care and a social welfare safety net system that is unmatched in less developed countries. And yes, as Canadians we can tell our American friends that they do in fact live in a social democracy. American governments provide roads, free education for their children, a certain amount of health care under programs designed for seniors and others, and many, many other government services. Americans are already socialists; they just don’t know it yet.

It’s fair game to have political discourse on how best we deliver medical care, educational opportunities and financial gain, but I think we can all agree on the generalities here. Western governments are not perfect, but they provide opportunities and protections in equal measure. Those of us born in western democracies have won the lottery.

I am not arguing that we are without poverty in North America. I am not suggesting that all segments of our populations have equal access to the best health/medical care known to man. And I am certainly not arguing that we are without real Third World problems right here in the middle of our First World comfort zones. All we have to do to understand that we have real Third World conditions here in Canada and the United States is to look at the number of First Nations Communities in our countries that do not have access to safe drinking water. Safe drinking water is a topic for another day, as is social democracy, but to go full circle in terms of what I’m trying to say…… Generally speaking, that is.

In both Canada and the United States, we are educated, meaning we should be critical thinkers who can research and digest credible information with the intention of coming to informed opinions and conclusions.

We are prosperous. We are informed. We have access to unlimited amounts and sources of credible information. And yet, somehow, somewhere, and someway, some people still come out of the exercise forming the most ill-advised opinions and making the most imprudent decisions. And these decisions will affect not only themselves, but their families, the communities in which they live, and the countries they claim they would die for.

A prime example of which I speak……..

I once worked for a company that employed as many medical doctors, scientific PhDs, nurses and other medical professionals as they did “civilians”. During my very early tenure with this company, I was naive enough to promote the idea that we (meaning the office building in which I worked) were big enough to host a flu clinic. To make a long story short, on the full day of the clinic, in a building which housed more than 350 people, less than a dozen people showed up to receive a flu shot.

Now, you might want to defend such people, and suggest to me that such educated and informed individuals must have taken advantage of other medical services and availed themselves of the flu shot. And, no doubt, some of them did. The reality for me, however, was shocking.

For there I sat among the educated and informed masses, an old political hack with a comparatively humble academic background in Political Science and Economics, and a resume that showed a work history of having served in a host of different government positions, only one of which could even remotely be considered “health” related.

At the time I remember feeling like I was “the cock of the walk”. I was doing “good” for my community because I was at least partly responsible for organizing the flu shot clinic But when I asked my co-workers – these medical and scientifically trained professionals – why they didn’t take advantage of the flu clinic, a goodly number of them answered “my gosh, no, don’t you know the dangers associated with immunization?” “Don’t you ever read anything on the internet?” Or, my favourite dumb response “Don’t you know its much better for you if you let your body fight all diseases naturally?  Yes, yes, a few poor sous may die, but the rest of us will be stronger for our suffering.”

I mean, come on people, these were medical doctors and scientists I was dealing with!

I was, and still am to this day, speechless as to the response I received after that flu clinic. The whole exercise made me feel like I was in an uneducated, underfunded and somewhat backward Third World environment, and the year was really 1920 or thereabouts.

I was watching CNN this morning, and suddenly, I was listening to a report about a woman who lived somewhere in the mid-West United States, and whose son had just died from the flu. This woman had apparently joined some Facebook group that had been set up to support parents who had suffered the loss of a child. This Facebook Group was pro-immunization, and its members went busily about their business of welcoming the grieving mother and trying to help her understand that she was not responsible for the death of her son, because all of her kids had been vaccinated, and immunization saves lives.

But immediately upon starting the Facebook banter, this woman came under immediate attack from anti-vaxxer trolls who called the woman a lying schemer because everyone knew that the woman in question really didn’t have children, and therefore, it was impossible………… If you want to discredit someone, use the big lie, because there is no lie as good or as believable as THE BIG LIE. Donald Trump has taught us how to believe the big lie. So, in terms of the immunization story, you no doubt could write the rest yourself.

You already know this story, my friends. Measles was effectively eliminated in Canada by 2002, and that was a good thing because measles has a mortality rate of 1 to 2 per thousand in developed countries like Canada and the United States, and 3 to 5 per thousand in developing Third World countries. Measles is dangerous stuff and it is a killer. Never the less, the educated masses to whom I referred earlier don’t always get it.
Prior to widespread vaccinations in 1980, the World Health Organization estimates measles caused 2.6 million deaths every year. By 2012, with 84 per cent of the world’s children vaccinated, that global number was reduced to 122,000 — which is still 14 deaths every hour. Measles can also cause pneumonia, deafness, blindness and brain damage. Again, measles is a killer. What’s not to get?
Those are the facts and educated people with access to great medical facilities and services should be able to think rationally about immunization. Given the rise of the anti-vaxxer movement in North America, however, I am left to ponder the nature of human intellect.

In the absence of doubt, when it appears that all is under control or about to come under control, do we as human beings purposefully seek out contrary evidence to that which is scientifically proven and readily available? Is there a need in some of us to create the greatest amount of chaos possible, no matter the cost to our own children?

California has already moved forward with legislation to take on the anti-vaxxers, and other Western States in the US are becoming more pro-active as well. Here in Canada, every province has top-notch immunization programs available to our populations, but the loop holes are many. Its time for Canadian governments, meaning Provincial governments, to follow the lead of California and make immunization mandatory, with the only exemption being a medical exemption.

Our children deserve no less. My grandchildren certainly deserve no less, and I will do whatever I can to see them safe.

About Everything – or at Least Some Things

I feel the need to explain my absence from these hallowed depths of cyber-space this morning. Perhaps not enough to apologize after setting such high expectations for myself to produce something on a regular basis but explain I will in any case.

Simply put, I’ve been busy for the past week, and I’ve had very little time where I’ve been able to put fingers to keyboard and share my ramblings with you.

I was fortunate enough last week to have my nephew Steven Bowers visit my better half and me, and as always, we opened our home to relatives from both sides of the family. Mi casa es vuestra casa has been the motto in our home for the past 39 years, and it remains so even today.

I consider myself a very lucky fellow when it comes to Steve, because I consider him both a family member and a friend. Please don’t take what I’m about to say the wrong way, because all of my nephews and nieces – both blood relations and in-laws – all have a special place in my heart and my life, but with the exception of my two sons and daughter, and the one niece who lives near the National Capital and who will remain nameless in this blog and is more like a daughter than a niece, Steve perhaps has a greater capacity to put up with my BS than do some of the others. That may be his great misfortune, but I consider it my good fortune, and we had some really good chats while he was here.

Steven is a singer-songwriter of some fame who was, of course, born on the great island of Newfoundland. All of us take great pride having been born “On the Rock”, but Steven also has had the Atlantic Canadienne experience of growing up and spending his formative teen years in Labrador and New Glasgow, Nova Scotia – and later moved to the far reaches of Western Canada to practice his art in Alberta and British Columbia.

Steven is a very talented musician. As a singer-songwriter whose contemporaries include the likes of such famous Atlantic Canadian poets and writers as Ron Hynes, Christina Martin, Mary Stewart, Meaghan Smith and George Canyon, to name but a few, Steven has spent a considerable amount of time during his short adult life becoming personally and professionally familiar with Indigenous Canadians on a level that few of us, as immigrants all, ever get to experience. Needless to say, I am extremely proud of Steven for everything he has accomplished. Having spent four days with him last week, we pretty much “talked ourselves out”, and I think we both came away from his visit with new perspectives on a host of issues that will doubtlessly become fodder for future blogs.

In the middle of Steve’s visit, while trying to keep tabs on my blog and my Facebook account, I sort of stumbled into several conversations that really peaked my interest and will no doubt also become the subject of a blog or two.

On Thursday last week, while sitting in a bar waiting for Steve’s performance to begin, I thought I was checking the “comments” section of my blog when in fact I inadvertently found myself in the middle of a conversation with a bunch of siblings from my hometown, and, low and behold, it was a political conversation. Please note from above, I was sitting in a bar, so I may have been influenced by the spirit which was flowing pretty freely at the time. But inject myself into the conversation I did. I didn’t realize you were having a family discussion until after I hit send. If I have caused any offense my old friends, I apologize, but you were discussing something that I have been pondering for a long, long time.

The thesis of the conversation went something like this…..

In public life in general, and in political life in particular, we all assume a role, and 95% of everything we say and do, depending on the position we occupy, is predictable. If political roles are reversed, a person will simply say what the other person was saying or would say before the roles were reversed.

For example, the Prime Minister has a constitutional responsibility to lead the Government of Canada, and that requires that he play a certain role. To play that role, he must say certain things in the promotion and/or defense of the government he leads. The same must be said for the Leader of the Opposition, whose first constitutional responsibility is to oppose the Government of Canada. In his opposition to the Prime Minister and the Government, the Leader of the Opposition is of course predictable in what it is he says, because its his role to oppose. And the same can be said for other politicians, the media, business leaders, social activists, and so on. I’ve always found this to be a fascinating but predictable aspect of the political process, and I will no doubt have a go at this soon.

My third revelation came to light on Sunday afternoon, when I again opened what I thought was the comments section of my blog (I’ll get it right soon, promise) only to find a comment on Facebook from a family member but one who I haven’t seen or spoken to in a number of years offering me a few kind words on my blog. Now, I was suffering the effects of a great St. Patrick’s Day party, so at least to me my confusion is understandable. My friend Keith was commenting specifically on my last published blog regarding “Us vs Them”, and although I won’t quote verbatim, he made the comment American (meaning the United States) democracy was born defective. Instead of achieving the ideal their revolution only succeeded in replacing King George with King Mr. President. Comparing Britain and France, (and even Canada), the US is sort of the runt of the litter. It never did thrive. Today, in addition to being defective, it has become rather ill.

Now, dear readers, some of you know my friend Keith and the one thing I will tell you and the one thing we will all agree on is that Keith is not a stupid man, having reached the highest levels in his chosen academic field. That is not to say, however, that Keith and I agree on everything because he and I have never agreed on most matters political in nature. Never the less, I have the highest regard for his insights, and I must admit, this one set me straight back on my arse as we say back east. He has given me a lot to ponder, and this will without doubt be the subject of a future blog. And bonus! Because of my blog and the comments that were flying back and forth, Keith and Sadie (a member of that hometown family I may have offended during my first stumble) have re-connected for the first time since we graduated from high school in 1969.

Although not a productive week in terms of by blogging, I did have a great week of re-connection and reflection.

Four great days with my buddy Steve, where we talked, debated, laughed and cried and agonized over family, indigenous history, social issues and norms and indigenous government policy, climate change, sustainable resource development, and God only knows what else, because we might have been having a few nips along the way. Thank you, Steve. Your tour will be over tomorrow, and in one more sleep you’ll be back home with Kristen and Sparrow in Victoria where you belong. Let’s not wait another seven years before we do that again. And please folks, check out Steven Bowers and his new album Elk Island Park. I think its his best work to date.

A very productive Sunday (where I spent a goodly part of my day recovering from my self-inflicted wounds suffered while showing my affection for St. Patrick and most things Irish) and a very sober and restful Monday helped me put myself back on the rails.

So here I’ll be going again. Indigenous Canadian issues galore, climate change, sustainable development, our treatment and stewardship of the animals in our care, the predictability of the roles we all play when we enter public life, and of course, the state of political parties in functioning democracies. Oh Lord its hard to be humble.

Us and Them

I like to pretend that my Saturday mornings are times of reflection, times for reading my newspapers and drinking my coffee, watching a little “talking heads” TV, and for times where my much better half and I can catch up on the happenings of the past week and plan (meaning, very little planning needed) for the coming week.

The truth, though, has become self-evident, mostly because I started writing this blog. I’ve now added to my Saturday morning routine some time at my laptop, where when given the opportunity, I can use this platform to inform the world of what’s going through my head. The beauty here is that you, the reader, are not obliged to read what I’m writing or to show any understanding or interest with what’s in my head. I do, however, hope that you find what I’m trying to say at least marginally interesting.

It seems I’m hard-wired in a weird way to ignore the normalcy of everyday life and focus instead on any somewhat controversial subject/topic, and then become obsessed with said subject/topic until it exhausts itself, and then I move on to the next. Let me tell you, self-awareness is not always uplifting or pretty. I really do miss the days of heading off to Canadian Tire on any given Saturday morning, just because I could, and because it was a place to take the kids to get them out of the house and give Mom a break.

I’m sure by now you must be asking yourself, what the ……………?

Well, there is a point to this story. On Saturday morning past my wife noted I wasn’t watching Fareed Zakaria’s regularly scheduled CNN program (as I usually do) which is titled GPS, and given my recent political ravings about “political tribalism” I was missing a gem. It should tell me something when my wife, a Public Health professional and certainly one of the most non-political people I know, is keeping an eye on my behalf for something to occupy my mind – which in our real-world case means my time. But I digress.

Political tribalism, you ask? Please let me explain, at least a little. For whatever reason, sometimes its simply a matter of geography, sometimes family history, sometimes religious affiliation, sometimes financial well-being. But for whatever reason, some people are pre-disposed to support the Liberal Party of Canada or the Conservative Party of Canada – or in the United States either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party – and nothing, and I mean nothing, will move those people off their supportive positions. A person’s IQ doesn’t matter; a person’s educational level doesn’t matter; a person’s income level doesn’t matter; and a person’s ability to reason when dealing with non-political issues doesn’t matter.

In political terms, we call those people a pollical “base”. In sociological terms, we could call those people a “political tribe”, and over the years I’ve often thought that “committed” Liberals and /or Conservatives were being tribal in their fierce loyalty to their Political Party, no matter the policy issue being presented, or political offense committed.

I have many such friends on both sides, and I mentioned this “tribalism” thing to a Liberal friend of mine in an email exchange regarding the recent SNC-Lavalin saga. In a good-natured way (or at least I had hoped it was in a good-natured way) I accused my Liberal friend of being “tribal” in his assessment of the whole affair, and that he couldn’t be objective because of his life-long loyalty to the Liberal Party of Canada. As you might think, vigorous debate followed, and ended without agreement, but it got me to thinking about how “tribal” I have been in all the many aspects of my life. More on that to follow. Well, now back to my story of Saturday morning.

I rushed to the family room TV, hit rewind to find the beginning of the interview my wife was referring to, and there was Fareed Zakaria (one of my favorites talking heads/political commentators for sure) interviewing some guy I’d never heard of before. Turns out the person being interviewed was Robert Sapolsky, a neuroendocrinologist who is currently a professor of biology, neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. And if that isn’t enough for you, Professor Sapolsky is also a research associate at the Natural Museums of Kenya. That’s quite the resume. And low and behold, this guy is all of a sudden bringing clarity to an issue that I’ve been grappling with most of my adult life, and he’s giving me the “why” – as in, why do intelligent, well educated people support what I consider to be such irrational political positions?

Although a prolific and accomplished author (and to my embarrassment someone I’ve never read or heard of before) Professor Sapolsky has most recently published an article in the March/April edition of Foreign Affairs, a highly respected journal in the world of, you guessed it, foreign affairs. Professor Sapolsky’s article was titled This Is Your Brain On Nationalism.

Sapolsky’s hypotheses is easy to follow, but perhaps less easy to accept in all quarters. Simply put, Sapolsky (and others) set out to prove that we (meaning humans as a species) are genetically pre-disposed to become “tribal” in nature, and our brains are hard-wired to recognize other humans as being either an “us” or a “them”.

I won’t bore you with the technical or academic details of the research, but I hope I’ve given you enough information to find what you are looking for, if indeed you decide to go looking. If you can’t find what you need, just drop me a line and I’ll try to steer you in the right direction.

But allow me to share that during Zakaria’s interview with Sapolsky, it became clear to me that we are all tribal in nature, and not only are we tribal in nature, we must become tribal in nature.   Its in our nature to seek out those of us who are “like us” and to stay there, thus becoming tribal in our positions.  This is a mine field of political, social, religious and economic debate that we too often ignore.

Sapolsky argues that tribalism develops from our human need to experience an “us” versus a “them”, and that we have this gigantic dividing line in our brains that helps “us” de-humanize “them”.

So, how do we do this? If you’ll allow me to use SNC-Lavalin as an example, the story quickly divided Canadians into two camps; those who supported Jody Wilson-Raybould and those who supported Justin Trudeau.

On the Jody side, (we’ll call this “us”) you had just about everyone who wasn’t a committed Liberal supporter, plus those who were disappointed that Trudeau “broke faith” with the feminist, egalitarian and indigenous agendas, as well as those who had a constitutional respect for the rule of law. This side’s mantra was “How could you?”

On the other side, (we’ll call this side “them”) you have committed Liberal supporters and those who argued that no laws were broken. This side moved quickly to discredit Wilson-Raybould, saying she wasn’t a team player, she was difficult to work with, and that being a woman she viewed things differently. You could argue this is a form of de-humanization, as I have argued this case in previous blogs.

We have plenty of examples in recent human history where the “de-humanization” of a race, or a religion, or of an economically or geographically disadvantaged population have been demonized; certainly, enough to see Sapolsky’s point. We saw tribalism at work during the US Civil War where loyalties were lived out simply by nature of the place you were born or lived. The same happened before and during the Second World War with the Nazi extermination of the Jews, but in this instance race, religion and economics came into play.

Sapolsky argues living examples of nationalistic tribalism can be found with Brexit, where extreme British nationalism is on full display with Great Britain’s exit from the European Union. Extreme nationalism is on full display when we look at the two Koreas – North and South. And finally, and thankfully not to our Canadian shame but we shouldn’t become too complacent, we are seeing a very close-up example of tribal nationalism in support of Donald Trump and the Republican Party in the United States.

In my life, I figure I’ve been a member of many tribes, so to speak. I’ve had different school affiliations. I’ve been a member of different religions at different times throughout my life. I’ve been in law enforcement, where “us” and “them” is lived out in even more extreme terms. I’ve been a card-carrying member of political parties. I’ve been a pretty steady member of the middle-class tribe of Canadians. I’ve lived in more Canadian Provinces than most Canadians, I think, and no matter how many times I move locations I remain a member of the Newfoundland tribe. Go figure!

How many tribes do you belong to?

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.






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.