Archive for March, 2018

Unconventional Leadership – Voters are the best leaders #canpoli #bcpoli
March 14, 2018

There’s nothing conventional about recent leadership races.

I am sort of sad to tell you that I’ve watched almost every political leadership race since Clark was elected oh so many years ago. It’s my thing. I’m not sad for me. I really do enjoy it. I’m sad for the use of my time. You know as well as I do that there are more productive things I could have been doing. 

But last Saturday, partly by circumstance and partly by my world-class housework avoidance skills, I watched the Ontario PC leadership in all its dumpster fire finale. Go home, said the volunteer in chief who worked tirelessly to serve his party and its members only to be booed. Pretty sad moment. But I understood their dismay. Why do you think people take time out of their lives and money out of their pockets to be there? Because they craved being a part of history, and the ridiculous number of balloons and epic speeches, that’s why. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it’s no more important that being at a great hockey game or a golf match. We crave experience. The PC Party of Ontario robbed their members of that. Mostly, it appears, because it was too close to call and the hall was booked for another event. Bad timing or bad planning. You decide. 

Quick side story – I attended the 1990 leadership Liberal convention in Calgary – I was a (very) young delegate. We were tasked with showing enthusiasm. They didn’t really care who we would vote for (but they had some suggestions) as long as we showed up keen and early (these were the days of the free hospitality bars). Which we did. Few of us had ever been to Calgary. And that’s what really drew us to the event. 

In the hallway, I met Peter Mansbridge and told him that I really liked his show. Stupid thing to say but I was star-struck by him. His response was polite but could we just get this done already because he had a flight to catch. Nobody won on the first ballot so we all had to actually vote again. I know right? Darn those pre-internet conventions, well, except for the funny hats and watching candidates cross the floor. But I learned that leadership contests are all about TV ratings and news cycles rather than the promise of good government. 

I suppose now is as good a time as ever to tell you that “some” youth delegates registrations were paid by bag men (not mine – I paid my way). Bag men are wealthy party members. They raise money. They make deals. And fair enough for youth delegates. We were in university, we had no money and no part time job would cover the bill. And, who would say no to a weekend away. Somethings, it seems, never change. 

But it taught me a lesson. We were enlisted to wear cowboy hats and vote for a candidate in exchange for a flight and a few days hotel in a city to which we had never been. Those who paid for us were rewarded with handsome tax credits. Within six weeks of that experience, I left the party, the job on Parliament Hill and the whole partisanship scene. 

There are significant sacrifices for anyone who holds very high office. And part of it is keeping up the appearance of partisanship. I may not be the best person when it comes to money, but I know when I’m being bought. And I just couldn’t do it. 

So my message is this. And I hope you are willing to absorb it. Partisan politics will be the death of us. It’s time every single riding picked qualified, dedicated, experienced candidates who owe nothing. Nothing to bag men. Nothing to other politicians. Nothing to parties. Nothing to anybody except the people they intend to serve. And I will argue that because I was very fortunate to serve the most honourable, the most honest and possibly the most hated member of the Federal Liberal Caucus because he opposed the notwithstanding clause compromise of Canada’s much contested constitutional debate. Jean Robert Gauthier – no longer among us – but arguably Ottawa’s greatest elected official (notice I didn’t say politician). 

I will never forget the day Chretien called. He needed Gauthier. I patched him through. Turner was leader. “Bonjour”, I said, “office of Jean Robert Gauthier”. His office door shut.  That was my job. Connecting my MP with anyone who needed to talk to him. Including the leader-in-waiting. He always answered the call. 

I went back to my typewriter (remember those?) knowing that I would never know, for sure, what that conversation was about. But I can tell you this. It was harder on Chretien that it was on Gauthier.  He taught me the value of not having a price. I’m grateful for that lesson. 

And if I can pay it forward, all I ask is that you please think before you vote. Then think again. Be unconventional. That’s where the power is. And that’s where the secret to change is.

A vote is not an exchange for a promise. A vote is an expression of hope. The sooner we learn that, the better off we’ll all be. I’m grateful I learned that lesson early. 

So, for the next few months our social media and news sites will be filled with partisan fuelled arguments from the centre of the universe (Toronto, in case you wondered). And in the not too distance future, our own social media and news feeds will be filled with local election news. Try, as hard as you can, to cut through the noise and the partisanship. Get informed. Ask for the information you need. Make the call you need to make. Beware the balloons. Focus on your internal dialogue. You’ve got this. And if it helps, remember that voters are the best leaders. Elected officials are your employees. It’s not the other way round. Never has been. Never will be.

See you at the polls. And, yes, I’d love to be your employee again. It’s been a balloon-free honour and privilege. #bcpoli #saturdayoctober20_2018 #notatanyprice

Are the kids alright? #chooselove #readon
March 1, 2018

The Columbine shooting happened when I was a full-fledged grown-up, living in a big city. I admit, it didn’t hit me much. I didn’t have kids. Neither did any of my friends. That doesn’t make me heartless, at least I hope not. But it does speak to how we deal with trauma and tragedy. Those best equipped to deal with it are those most able to connect with it. 

The Sandy Hook school shooting however, happened when my kids were little. That hit hard. Really hard. But the loss of innocent young children made me feel hopelessness and despair. 

The Florida Parkland school shooting hits even harder. My kids could have been those kids. Those kids lived in a small town known for its park like setting not that much bigger than Salmon Arm. The loss of teenagers makes me angry. They were so close to making it to full-fledged grown-ups. I don’t know why that makes a difference but it does to me. Likely because I have teenagers. 

I don’t think it’s that easy to be a teenager right now. In fact, I have it on good authority that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Social media is basically the equivalent of spending your whole life living those awkward moments in the high school hallways. Remember those? I know that you do. 

But for this generation of teens, there is no escape. The chatter never stops. Not for the evening, not for the weekend, not ever. Youtube is always on. So is Instagram and Snapchat. So is texting and FaceTime. They are connected all the time. They think they like it. As a parent, I’m not so sure it’s the best option. Not that I didn’t log my fair share of time chatting with friends on the phone. The cord from the wall unit in the kitchen was long enough to get me to a place of privacy if I gingerly snuck it under the bathroom door. In some ways, it’s the same. But in others, it’s a world of difference. 

You would think that in an age of hyper-connection, we would be better positioned to see the danger. Ironically, no. It’s said that the average person, in this day and age, is the recipient of 10,000 messages a day from radio commercials, to billboards to Facebook ads. And I say that as someone who works in and teaches marketing. How many of those messages can we really connect to, I ask you? It would appear that we are quickly loosing our ability to edit what, in the sea of media, is the big wave that matters. And it extends to law enforcement too, at least it did in the Florida tragedy. Someone picked up the phone to try to report the risk. It was missed. Or at least that is what appears to be the case. But who knows, it’s difficult to trust sources of information. Which makes it even more difficult. 

I miss the days when the TV would turn off for the night after an odd rendition of the Canadian anthem. It was a rare day that I was allowed to stay up that late but, truth be told, I think we all need that good night’s sleep. One thing’s for sure, those dead teenagers will sleep to infinity and their classmates will live the nightmare forever more. But it will fuel them to embolden a nation, our downstairs neighbour, to ensure that Parkland is the #lastmasshooting. I really think they can do this. In fact, it’s pretty much the only thing I’m sure of these days. 

But we’re going to have to hold on tight. All teenagers are vulnerable. The journey from childhood to adulthood is a test of will, of trust, of trial and of error. If you’re the parent of a teen, you’re going to need all the strength you can muster and it’s in you to give. You’re a trained professional. We got them through diapers, crawling, walking, talking, potty training, reading, riding their bike and tying their shoes among many other things. They’ve trained us well. At least I hope so. Because, the truth is, we need them more than they need us. It’s not advice you’re going to find in any parenting book but it’s the God’s honest truth. 

And the efforts, theirs and ours, will bear fruit. 

Downstairs, the NRA is running scared. And it’s for unlikely reasons. Insanely well-paid and well-positioned lobbyists of the US government are not afraid of youth because a gun is being held to their heads. They are afraid because teenagers hold our hearts. And no assault weapon can ever beat that. Ever. 

Closer to home, they are challenging us on plenty of societal norms that we have built our lives upon. Gender, marriage, ownership, climate, activism, music, language, and fashion to name but a few. While I’ll never understand their attraction to Family Guy and American Dad, I remember so well the ways in which I challenged my own parents. That’s why the common refrain (or was it a complaint) was that we wait until we had our own teenagers to really understand. Well played Mom and Dad, well played. 

We’re going to need courage, love and common sense. The kids are alright. More than alright. They have plenty to teach us. Our challenge is to give them the respect they deserve and to listen to things we do not want to hear. It’s on us. Without truth, there is no trust. Not easy. In fact it might be the most challenging time you face as a parent. But we are here for a reason. At least I hope we are. And one day, they too will have teenagers. And they will need our help with that. So we need to survive this.  

Important post script – all teens are vulnerable but some are more vulnerable than others – if you have a teen who is struggling with anxiety, depression or substance abuse, please reach out to your family doctor, your school counsellor, a therapist or a child and youth mental health team member. On the upside, there is a sea of dedicated and trained professionals willing and able to help. But the biggest step is your willingness to face the fear.  Choose to empathize, not to criticize. It may well be the most important decision you ever make. If you want to know more, know that any message to me at or 250 833 5554 will be held and responded to in the utmost confidence. I’m not an expert but I am a parent and we’re going to have to rely on each other, and on them, to make it work.

Everyday we have a choice. Choose love. It always wins.