Tag Archives: leadership

Filling Out My Dream Team Roster

By Jason Menard

It’s been proven over and over in sports that success does not come exclusively by having the best players — it’s having the best team that wins championships. After all, even on the Dream Team not everyone could be Michael Jordan. Someone’s had to be Christian Laettner.

That rings true in all aspects of life, including business and politics. Everyone wants to be (or thinks they are) the idea person, the visionary, the leader. There’s a whole market predicated on selling motivational posters to those who want to believe that individualism matters more than collective will.

It’s true that single-mindedness and tunnel vision can lead to successfully completing a goal or project. And if you’re interested in your own needs, that’s often enough. But true success — the kind that uplifts people from across all walks of life — can only come from balance and teamwork. Continue reading

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Political Strength is Home Grown

By Jason Menard

Is it any shock that Belinda Stronach has decided not to run for the federal Liberal leadership? After all, to do so at this juncture would have been committing political suicide.

Regardless of Ms. Stronach’s qualifications – and one would think having been in a management role in the multi-billion dollar Magna International would lend itself well to the managing of a country – she’s been caught up in the groundswell of anger over David Emerson’s defection to the Conservative party for a cabinet seat.

The fact of the matter is that the only difference between Stronach and Emerson’s respective party flopping is in the degree of brazenness that both parties displayed. Stronach, at least, put in a solid tenure with the Conservatives and was known as a Red Tory before she made the jump. Emerson’s defection reeked of opportunism. And while Stronach’s decision was validated in the recent federal election by her constituency, it’s hard to even suggest that Emerson’s electorate would afford him the same vote of confidence.

But, overall, the two politicians made similar moves, which not only have been met with disapproval within their own ranks, but they’ve served to cast doubt on the candidates’ very integrity and loyalty. Essentially, they’re not home-grown candidates and for that reason Stronach would be a liability in a leadership role – despite her qualifications.

And it’s for that same reason that Bob Rae should be pulling his hat tighter around his head instead of considering throwing it into the ring. Rae will always be NDP. His legacy will be that of a promising Ontario leadership bid that quickly descended into the land of mockery.

One of the things that Canadians look for in their leaders is fidelity. We want to believe that our leaders have bled the party colours, that their ideals and beliefs are ingrained – not buffeted and shaped by the winds of popular opinion. That’s why Stephen Harper can come across as a credible Conservative, while Jean Charest continues to see his True Grit tainted by Tory Blue.

It’s somewhat ironic that we want our politicians to be flexible, understanding of the differing opinions of the Canadian populace, and willing to change with the times – yet we vilify those who switch parties simply because we look at them as traitors to the cause.

That’s what sets apart the Pat O’Briens of the country from the Emersons, the Stronachs, and – potentially – the Raes: the decision to switch affiliation based upon strongly held personal beliefs as opposed to simply peddling their fidelity for a Cabinet position or a shot at a premium job.

Rae will never been convincing as a Liberal – not when he spent so many years in the NDP camp taking shots at the opposition. In essence, are we to believe that the Liberal Party has undergone such a philosophical shift to the point where Rae has not had to compromise his ideals? Or, more likely, will we believe that this is just another indication that everyone has his or her own price – and for our politicians influence outweighs integrity.

That’s why Stronach can’t run – at least not for the next couple of elections. Until she’s been accepted as a long-standing Liberal and not just a recent convert, she’ll be tainted with the stain of opportunism. A few years of being the good soldier and adhering to the Grit cause should make that year in the Conservative camp just a distant memory.

And that’s why the current Liberals need to either find someone from within, such as Gerald Kennedy, or someone with no prior political affiliation, like Michael Ignatieff, to lead their ranks into the next federal battle. In a country where our confidence in the political system has been shaken, voters need to feel that their potential leaders are committed to the cause and faithful to their party.

After all, we need to know that our leaders will work with our own best interests — not their own personal goals – at heart.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Stars Aligned for Martin to Pull a Trudeau

By Jason Menard

Is it fair to say that Paul Martin got Kim Campbelled? And since we’re looking at former Prime Ministers, with a minority government always a sketchy and short-lived proposition, will he be able to pull a Pierre Trudeau and rise to power for one last legacy-making tour of duty?

As the Liberal leadership race slowly trudges along, time is running short for a suitable candidate to step to the fore. Big names like Frank McKenna and John Manley dropped out early in the process; others have question marks attached to their names – such as Michael Ignatieff, Belinda Stronach, and former Ontario NDP leader Bob Rae; and others, like Joe Fontana, David McGuinty, and Ken Dryden may choose to play the long-shot role in a wide-open race.

But time is not on the Liberals’ side. And if Stephen Harper attempts to be too aggressive with his budget and force a non-confidence vote, Canadians could find themselves heading back to the polls for the third time in two years. And, for Martin, the third time may prove to be the charm.

After 10 years of waiting – with a couple in exile – and a stellar reputation as a tough, but fiscally prescient, finance minister, Martin swam up to the head seat in the wake of Jean Chrétien’s departure from the PMO. Of course, as we found out, the waves created by the Chrétien government ended up drowning Martin and served as the anchor that dragged him and his party down.

Like Kim Campbell, who’s known less for being the first female Prime Minister, and more for being the final nail in the Progressive Conservative party’s coffin, Martin will be remembered for the brevity of his political reign. His entire Prime Ministerial legacy will be defined by his predecessor’s actions and how they stained his tenure.

That is, unless he gets another chance. If an election is called sooner than later, the Liberal Party might have to look to its past to resurrect its future. And it’s not unprecedented, even within the party’s own history.

Back in 1979, with a sliding economy, a public rapidly tiring of his perceived attitude, and increasing debt, Pierre Trudeau was forced to call an election in 1979. After suffering a defeat to Joe Clark, Trudeau announced his retirement, only to return to power after a vote of no confidence brought down the Tory minority. Trudeau’s return to majority prominence offered him the opportunity to polish his reputation, forge a new Constitution ratified by nine of the 10 provinces, and go into history as one of the country’s most dynamic leaders – love him or hate him. After a self-proclaimed long walk in the snow, Trudeau retired, on his own terms, in 1984.

Martin, on the other hand, spent the majority of his time fighting off the Mr. Dithers label that was placed on him by The Economist. However, a more apt title would have been The Fireman, as the beleaguered Prime Minister spent his 27 months putting out the myriad of blazes left behind by his predecessor: AdScam and the Gomery Report, Income Trust, and – of course – the perceived culture of entitlement that 13 years of unchallenged leadership had created within the Grit rank-and-file.

Now, the opportunity is there for Paul Martin to return to the ranks of the Liberal leadership, brandishing a humbled sword and commitment to honesty in the battle against a rapidly beleaguered Conservative Party with no natural ally in a fractured House of Commons. While the Liberals of the last Parliament could find some affiliation with the NDP and left-leaning views of the Bloc, the Conservatives are on their own island. Their skills in consensus-building will be put to the test if they are able to withstand the early assaults that will greet their minority status.

Of course, the other parties will also have to gauge the public’s appetite for yet another expensive election campaign. They’ll have to determine whether a less-than-ideal budget is more appealing than being blamed for causing even more political fatigue within the electorate. And, depending on how aggressively Prime Minister Harper plays his cards, they may have to ante up earlier in the game than they would like.

If that’s the case, look for Martin to be called back to the table, because no one else has shown that they’re ready to go all-in. They say that politics is a game and, for the foreseeable future, the Canadian version is looking more and more like a high-stakes came of poker.

And maybe, like Trudeau before him, Martin will get the chance to reshape his legacy into one that’s more appealing to him.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

The Right Vote Requires 20/20 Vision

By Jason Menard

With all the nation’s eyes – OK, with a handful of eyes (and some of them heavy-lidded at best) – glued to the televised debates between the Canadian political party leaders, one important component of any election decision continues to be lost in the front-page shuffle.

Each and every time we head to the polls we develop an acute case of hyperopia. Issues of national interest rightfully grab the headlines, but they shouldn’t affect us to the point where we forget about our own backyards.

It’s hard enough to get Canadians to the polls and we do so in woefully inadequate numbers. People feel distanced from the political process because many think that these issues on The Hill won’t affect them personally. But that neglects the fact that we don’t elect a Prime Minister – we elect individual candidates to represent our constituencies. Those numbers then determine who runs the show.

So why do so many people have trouble identifying the candidates in their own riding, much less than what they actually stand for? We can identify basic themes from the national campaign that filter down and affix themselves to the local candidates, but I’d hazard a guess that the vast majority of voters have only a sketchy idea of what their individual candidate stands for in their very own riding.

Although this is a federal election, its foundation is built on the local. And that’s where we, as responsible voters, must start to build the rationale for our decision when it comes time to mark our ballot.

Unfortunately, there are rarely televised debates between candidates in a riding. More often than not, they’re running their campaigns independently of each other, preferring to leave the cross-party sniping and broadsides to the captains of their respective political ships. But the key thing that we as citizens must realize is that while each candidate generally falls in line on the big issues of national importance, there are local issues unique to their riding that can have a direct impact on how you live your day-to-day life.

And that’s where your vote truly matters. When it comes to elections, we’re all pretty much selfish people wondering what’s in it for us – and that’s why campaign promises are made. But nowhere are you more directly impacted than by the decisions and ideas put forth by the person vying to be your local Member of Parliament.

In this day and age, there’s really only one reason why someone can step up to a ballot box completely ignorant of their local candidates’ beliefs and platforms – laziness. Almost every candidate – and certainly those of the big three parties – have Web sites that offer the meat of their party platform. But those sites are also spiced with the regional flavour of local issues.

As well, most candidates are more than happy to answer your questions – or at least have one of their minions do it for you. A phone call to a riding will be returned, an e-mail will be responded to, and a public photo-op/meet-‘n’-greet is only a day away!

There’s a reason why when we put our addresses on things we write the city, the province, and the country – it’s because all three levels impact us. So too should these distinctions carry equal weight in an election campaign. To vote based solely on a broad federal platform ignores your local needs. And, conversely, the overriding philosophy of a federal policy will have some weight on the choice of a local candidate.

This election campaign has been described as choosing the lesser of all evils. But it only has to be that way if we ignore our local constituencies. By talking to our local candidates and finding out where they stand on the issues that directly affect us, we are creating a situation wherein we’re choosing the best person for our own, personal situation. And really, isn’t that what an election is about? We are choosing a person to represent US in Parliament, so why wouldn’t we want that person to accurately reflect the riding, its beliefs, and its unique situation.

In the end, this election is about much more than Gilles Duceppe, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton, and Paul Martin – it is about the hundreds of candidates vying for the right to represent individual ridings. And we can’t let the bright lights of the federal stage blind us to the issues affecting us in our own backyards.

To make the right choice we need to restore balance in the way we look at our candidates, because a myopic perspective is no better than suffering from hyperopia. It may mean a little work, but the right answer for all of us will be easier to see with 20/20 vision.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved