Thursday, September 23, 2010

Our Leaders Divide Canada for the Sake of Votes Nix the Uniting Vision

Continuing my series on leadership, today I want to address "Good leadership rouses people, even the littlest people, to work towards that vision and makes it a common goal."

A vision can unite people because of the exciting picture it gives us of who we can be or what our country can become. But too many times, our leaders have no vision or have more a manifesto like former Prime Minister Jean Chretien's little red book. It was like Buckley's cough syrup: you knew you had to for your own good, but you didn't wanna. I'm speaking of the deep spending cuts of his deficit-elimination policy, which was his main platform. Somehow I can't rally around deficit reduction as a vision, but it was necessary. His other rallying points were more of a divisive nature, like his emotional rant against the Progressive Conservatives wanting to spend a horrendous amount on the military purchase of helicopters (sound familiar?). He pounded his pulpit of wasteful spending -- never mind that helicopters were falling out of the sky and Search and Rescue capability was being threatened -- and he appealed to the anti-military sentiment of the time. He pretty much set Canadians against the armed forces and got votes. (Hard to believe in these times where politicians compete over who is more sympathetic to them, but it was a total 180 to current sentiment back then.) And that's the problem, dividing people gets votes, it's like a drug to politicians, but it doesn't build a country.

We have to reach way back to find a vision that excited people, that appealed to our growth as a nation, a country independent from other states: the Constitution. Notwithstanding the PQ party's sour grapes, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's finally successful attempts to bring home the Constitution and add the Charter of Rights and Freedoms excited us, not just when we watched Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II sign it in front of Parliament, but also for years later as we eagerly anticipated all the ways it would improve our society.

I would say that former Liberal leader Stephane Dion came closest in recent times with his environmental policy, but he did not have the capability of rousing people to see it as a vision worthy of following, one which would benefit them and which they could participate in. The Constitution affected all of us because it changed the way each and everyone of us viewed ourselves; it changed the idea of being Canadian. In the same way, Dion could've changed our self-image back to one of innovators, reaching out to lead the world. Instead, he allowed the divisive politicians and those who wanted his job to turn his ideas upside down and to make them a point of ridicule. Silly man.

I recently asked Sarah Thomson, one of the Toronto mayoralty candidates, what her vision was. She had none. She has a strong platform but how can we rally around her when even she cannot articulate a vision. On the spur of the moment, she came up with Progressive and Together. Although many vision statements today are amorphous and if you really think about em would leave you scratching your head, they do need to have a sense of excitement. That doesn't do it for me. But it was spur of the moment! The candidate for Councillor she was interviewing at the time did have a good one: Leading change together. That's something one can package so as to rouse people. But you can't if you don't plaster it all over like Barack Obama did in his election campaign.

In my last post, I said that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the closest in having a vision that could be articulated and seen. But that's not what he's campaigning on (oh sorry, are we not supposed to be in election mode; well, we are). He's setting the tone of his campaign on an us-them platform, of the Toronto elites oppressing the poor rural folk on the long gun registry, turning them into criminals. Oh brother. The shame of it all is that he could probably win a majority just by appealing to our romantic vision of the arctic as belonging to all of us, by bringing the Spirit of the North to us in the south, by rallying all of us around the idea of we belong to it and it belongs to us -- Canada is not just sea to sea but sea to sea to sea. We are the true North, strong and free.

But no, he's into the we're the weak babies who need to be protected against the big, bad urbanites. Sigh.

Jesus once said a kingdom divided cannot stand. Whatever you believe, that statement is true. Canada cannot stand if we are going to be continually subjected to leaders who divide us and create fear in one segment of another, for the sake of votes. People, countries are always stronger united. This is why we are yearning for a leader with a vision that rouses all of us to a common goal. We continue to wait.

No comments: