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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.

 

 

Tuesday
Jun262018

Good Grief-A personal Day!

Good grief! The Prime Minister is taking a personal day!

Let’s get real folks, is this the single most important thing that the Conservatives can find to attack the government and Prime Minister on when we are in the midst of a trade war, the city of Toronto is asking for help to look after refuges claimants and Canadian industries are worried about losing their competitive advantage!

Prime Ministers or even senior cabinet ministers rarely ever get a period of true time off. No matter where they go or what they do, staff are present or nearby, cell phones can reach them 24 hrs. a day and in the case of the Prime Minister, senior staff are watching over the shop.

Just because there are no meetings scheduled in an agenda, doesn’t mean a Prime Minister is taking a vacation day- and even if he was- those damn cell phones are always ringing.

Monday
Jun182018

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

According to the PMO the Prime Minister and his family enjoy the outdoors. This is a good thing. When you are faced with such a demanding and stressful job, giving your Prime Minister some down time in the outdoors is a good thing.

If we look at the latest NCC approved renovations for the Prime Minister’s summer residence at Harrington Lake; we see that he is trying hard to copy everyday middle-class Canadians and our standard of living.

Don’t we all wish we could afford a nice new sauna and not have to pay for its installation? I am sure our senior citizens would love to have one installed in their back yard or on their deck, especially if the installation costs were paid for by someone else.  Don’t you agree with the NCC that paying a mere $4300 was worth the cost?

And look at those middle-class patio umbrellas that the NCC were able to give the Prime Minister. They cost a lowly $1000 each. I suppose the NCC doesn’t mix and mingle with ordinary middle-class Canadians at their local Canadian Tire store, as there the most expensive ones were a whopping $499.

Every family needs a play structure for their children, mind you most can’t afford one. But in the true spirit of supporting the middle class the NCC bought one for the Prime Minister for only $7500. What a bargain! At your local Canadian Tire store, they sell for $599 for a combo swing set and play structure.

$28,000 for extra grooming of cross country trails for the PM really isn’t much when you consider that he is already surrounded by miles and miles of some of the best cross-country trails in the country and they already exist for his use in Gatineau Park. But what is an extra $28,000 when you live the middle-class lifestyle.

Every Prime Minister deserves a decent place to live in and this one is no different, but let’s keep in mind that it is the middle class taxpayer paying for it. The NCC should take note- how quickly do you think a reporter could find suppliers, electricians, landscaping companies etc. who could do the job for much less cost?

Inquiring minds want to know.