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Thursday
Aug232018

Goodbye Max

Well, as his nickname implies Mad Max has done it again and this time he has left the Conservative Party.

There is one thing that we can always count on in politics and it doesn’t matter if it is municipal, provincial or federal politics, and that is people’s egos.

There is always someone who is convinced that they are the next best thing in politics, if only the rest of the team would see it that way. Being full of your own importance isn’t that uncommon and it has ruined many a political career.

In the dog days of summer, when news is scarce, Bernier can attract attention. It will be a different game once the House returns and Bernier is just one more seat at the back of the room representing fewer voters than Elizabeth May.

Bernier is best remembered for his lost briefing book, but, I remember a poorly prepared minister scrambling to read his Question Period briefing book, just as the QP prep with the Prime Minister was to get under way and then stumbling over his answers when practice questions were directed his way. Not knowing your files is not the the stuff that Prime Ministers are made of and that was for one department not the whole government. I didn’t see prime ministerial material in him then and I don’t now.

Max can bask in the camera lights for now, but he will also have to deliver on a host of policy issues, raise funds, try to attract sitting MPs, find some good advisors, or change the ones he has now, and come up with enough followers to run candidates in at least Quebec, if not Canada.

I would wish Max good luck, but I will save that for Andrew Scheer and the Tory team when they take on Trudeau in 2019. Go Scheer Go!

 

Friday
Aug172018

Putting Max First, Party Second

Media reports have the Liberals saying that Max Bernier’s recent comments have led to a 77% increase in their fund raising- is anyone surprised by that?

Of course, his comments will help the Liberals and not his own party-did he think of that before posting his comments? Probably not, because this is all about Max, nothing here helps the Conservative Party.

The longer this goes on the more it looks like an attempt to box Scheer in before the Halifax convention. So what is Bernier planning there?

To use the phony excuse that what he is tweeting about was in his leadership platform or on a site a few years ago is hogwash. Leadership debates allow every candidate to express their views and put forward ideas that may differ from the official party position. But once it is over and you have lost, its time to take those sites and those comments down and rally around the new leader. You wanted to be the team leader and that didn’t happen so be a team player.

I am sure every party member in every party disagrees mildly or strongly with some part of their official party platform- that is normal. But, you rally around the leader and press on because it is not about you it is about the party and being a team player. There will be plenty of opportunities and policy reviews where you can express yourself. But that does not mean undermining your party’s positions and its leader in the lead up to an election.

I like Max and I even like some of his positions, but he is getting very bad advice from those around him on how he should proceed. My question is who is giving him advice and what’s in it for them?

This is not about allowing party members to speak up and discuss various positions as some have implied. There are lots of opportunities to do so- the Halifax meeting is but one example. This is looking more and more like an attempt to undermine Scheer.

In politics you have two ways of dealing with a defeated opponent- with one you give them a senior position as in keep your friends close and your enemies closer- the other…. Well I am sure you can figure that one out for yourself.

Scheer tried the first way, how did that turn out for him?

Tuesday
Aug142018

Another Bernier Bomb

Another Bernier bomb has burst on the scene this one on multiculturalism and diversity. It is too bad that he takes it upon himself to do these things, whether to get attention or to satisfy his ego. I like the guy and always have, but in politics you still must be a team player, unless you want to create your own team.

Bernier has left Scheer with little choice except to kick him out of caucus. Failure to do that will haunt the Conservatives in the next election (I can already imagine the election ads from both the Liberals and the NDP) and failure to do so will invite further attacks from the sideline that look more and more like attempts to undermine the authority of the leader, who won the leadership whether Bernier likes it or not. Now Conservatives and Canadians wait to see what Andrew Scheer does.

I was around when the Conservatives dealt with different aspects of multiculturalism and diversity and served as a Conservative ministerial Chief of Staff at Immigration, Multiculturalism and Citizenship. I have met with dozens of groups and communities, all so proud to be Canadians.

Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said it best on Twitter yesterday:

“There has been a lot of talk the last couple days about Canada’s diversity. Specifically, about how diversity is compatible with our Canadian identity.

Throughout Canadian history, Conservatives have routinely broken down ethnic and racial barriers in public life – helping establish Canada as one of the world’s most welcoming countries for newcomers.

Canada's first Chinese, Greek, Ukrainian, and Japanese MPs were Conservatives. Canada's first Korean, Pakistani, Filipino and Vietnamese Senators were also Conservatives, as were our first black, Sikh, Innu, and Inuk cabinet ministers and our first Muslim and Hindu MPs.  

Conservative governments also have a proud history of passing landmark legislation recognizing the diversity of backgrounds that have shaped our country. This includes Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960 and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney passing the first Multiculturalism Act in 1988.

Today our country faces challenges, but to suggest the challenges are because of “diversity” – either too much or too little – is simplistic & shows a disconnect with our past and present.

Canada is a successful country because we respect diversity and have had, by and large, a rules-based system that treats individuals fairly, regardless of their personal backgrounds. Conservatives have always understood this and will continue to fight to protect it.”

Wednesday
Aug082018

Diplomacy By Tweet

The brain trust that is Team Trudeau has managed to create an unprecedented fight with Saudi Arabia. This is not to say that they were wrong to stick up for Raif Badawi. Canada has intervened with various countries before.

The surprising thing is that the intervention was announced in a tweet on Twitter. Really? Is this how Team Trudeau practices modern day diplomacy, in a 140 characters or less?

What were they thinking?

Then again maybe they weren’t when you consider it was a Tweet from the Prime Minister that started the present influx of refugee claimants along our border.

 

Thursday
Jun282018

Thank You, Paul Wernick

Thank you, Paul Wernick, for having the courage to speak out.

The recent discussions triggered by Paul Wernick’s story about working conditions for staff on the Hill are long overdue. The working conditions that he described are accurate.

I was fortunate to have worked on the Hill in the 1980s, the 1990s and in the 2000s. Working conditions have changed over that span of years and not for the better. Pressure and demands on staffers have increased to unheard of levels, driven by a large part by new technologies and the demand for instant answers and a 24-hour news cycle.

Gone are the days when one would go to the Reading Room in Centre Block to search through newspapers looking for stories or to research an article. Today the staffer is looking through dozens of web sites on the internet and the information is no longer needed in hours or days- it is needed right at that moment. In the past it would often take 2-3 days for a story to get out there with sufficient force that a full-fledged counter attack was necessary. Today, a story appears on Twitter and its game over if you can’t reply in minutes. MPS, cabinet ministers, PMO and the OLO demand and expect instant answers. They expect every conceivable news outlet to be tracked IE no surprises. That puts immense pressure on limited numbers of staff who at the same time are also tasked with speech writing, setting up tours, attending committee meetings to help their MP, Question Period preparation and many more daily items that staff are charged with completing.

Add into that mix your job vulnerability. Job security does not exist. You are as secure as the last item you worked on. You can be let go at the whim of your boss and your place will be filled by some other eager staffer in the blink of an eye. Everyone working on the Hill knows that they are in a privileged position, they know they are doing a job that dozens of people want to do; and they know they must deliver top notch performance, day after day, or someone waiting in the wings will replace them.

I recall giving a speech in Montreal to a group which focused on what a typical day was like for a staffer in my position. For the 2 1/2 hours it took to get there and stand up to speak I turned off my Blackberry (that was one of the hardest things I have ever done). When at the podium, I handed it to someone in the front row and said turn it on- the buzz of incoming messages went on and on and on. Altogether 120 messages. Is it any wonder staff feel overwhelmed and in those days my Blackberry was never out of my hand?

When you went home or had a day off, your Blackberry went with you. When eating dinner, you were checking it, spending time with friends or family you were checking it. As a staffer you are on call 24 hrs. a day and I dare say a few of us have been lectured because your boss was writing a speech at 2 AM in the morning and you slept through their call. How many staff have had much needed vacations cancelled because “you are needed at the office”?

Staff survive because every few weeks the House allows MPs to head to their ridings. The volume of work for Hill staff drops and the riding staff take the brunt of the workload. The summer break also gives staff a chance to unwind a bit, but even then, the constant barrage of requests for information, answers, talking points, speech notes etc. continues- just at a slightly reduced pace.

There is no easy solution- staffing budgets are tight and with the media watching and commenting on how funds are spent, very few MPs will state publicly that they need a larger budget to hire more staff to meet modern day demands of the job. The same holds true for cabinet ministers, the Opposition Leaders Office and The Prime Minister’s Office.

Staff burn out is real, stress is real, mental health issues are real, and until the stories of the last week were written; I bet very few staff were even aware that systems were in place to help them. This is one area that a lot more internal publicity is needed.

Hill staff should thank that Paul Wernick for bringing this issue out of the corridors of power and into the open. As we go forward, the real test will be to see if MPs do something about it.