Mintzberg on the Globe's Pick

I came across this piece on the Catch 22 Harper Conservatives site by Henry Mintzberg commenting on the Globe & Mail's endorsement of the Harper Reformer Conservatives. I thought I should share it.

Voting for the Canada that Can Be

by Henry Mintzberg

Photo credit Owen Egan
That the Globe and Mail came out endorsing the Conservatives is hardly a surprise. Conventionally speaking, what else could its editors do? Endorsing the Liberals at this juncture would have seemed silly, and endorsing the NDP would hardly have endeared them to their owners, advertisers, and associates on Bay Street and in the corporations.

But beyond the conventional, the Globe did have options, just as do we, as voters on Monday―beyond what we might think. Let me get back to these in conclusion.

Stepping back and looking at the Harper Conservatives, as does the editorial in places, it is difficult to justify this endorsement—hardly a call to decency and in some sense even democracy. As I wrote in a commentary at the start of the campaign on the Globe website, a move to the extreme right, as in Thatcher’s Britain and Bush’s America, could very well happen here under a Conservative majority, and the Globe had no business ignoring that.

National? To me, the most striking point in the editorial is the reference to the Conservatives as “arguably the only truly national party.” Have the Globe editors been reading the Globe? By this point in the campaign, the NDP was clearly showing itself as the only party with significant support across the country. Look at the polls and you have to ask if the Globe editors think that Quebec has already left the country.

With Harper’s grip on the party, this is not even a Conservative Party. It is the Reform Party in all its dogmatic colors. What Canada needs desperately is a truly national, and decent, Conservative Party. Maybe, from Tuesday, we will get one.

Leadership? Why the surge―this sudden popularity of the NDP? That’s easy. Many Canadians have been concerned about country and integrity, and Jack Layton is the one leader who has come through as a trustable and regular sort of guy. Once the NDP gained some legitimacy―ironically, starting in Quebec, actually with an earlier election win in Outremont, the seat of the Francophone establishment―many people recognized it as an acceptable option, and moved to it. In football terms, you might say that Harper took out Ignatieff and Layton came up the middle (even if he was playing for another team!).

The Economic? The Social? That’s about leadership. Is there more to the election? I hope so. If I listen to Stephen Harper now, it’s all about issues, all of which happen to be economic. Do we Canadians live by economics alone? Reading the Globe editorial, you might think so. I don’t. Do you?

I agree with one point that Harper is making of late, that we are offered a clear choice. But not as he depicts it.

The finale of this election looks like a pitting of the economic against the social. That’s how campaigns sound, but they are a far cry from governing, where reality has to be faced. I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t want some sort of balance in his or her life between the economic and the social.

So who can give us that balance in government? Jack Layton is an unknown quantity; Stephen Harper is not. He tilts excessively to the economic, and especially to the large corporations that his dogma tells him drive the economy. Layton is obviously sensitive to the social. The question is: will he undermine the economic, as Harper undermines the social?

I think not, for two reasons. First he is promoting small businesses, which evidence has shown can be more important to economic growth than the large ones. And second, Layton would hardly be able to govern alone. He would have the good old Liberals (the Martin-like ones) to keep him straight.

Options So what are the options, for the Globe last Thursday and for us on Monday? The Globe had all kinds of unconventional choices, suitable for this unconventional election. It could have endorsed no-one. It could have endorsed a coalition. It could have endorsed strategic voting (described below).

And what are the options for the rest of us? On Monday, you can vote leader, party, candidate, issues, or country.

Leadership, as I mentioned, is an unknown quantity, or in the case of Harper’s autocratic nature, known too well. So ignore leadership.

Parties are supposed to be about ideas, but especially during election campaigns, we get this dumbing down from all of them, with discussion of serious issues reduced to trivia, name-calling, ads that insult us as voters, promises in the form of bribes with our own money, and so on. Moreover, alongside their many decent candidates, some of whom have had no choice but to affiliate with one party or another to get elected, the sad fact is that each party also runs its share of political hacks, who cheapen and sometimes corrupt politics. So let’s leave party aside too and take a better look at candidates.

Find the candidate in your riding with the greatest integrity and strike a blow for greater decency in politics. Or else do that by voting strategically, for the candidate most likely to knock off the one from the party you feel has been most indecent, and would be most dangerous in power.

Issues certainly matter, not just single issues, but the whole mix of them. The Conservatives offer us a tough country that stands its ground on tough issues (guns, jets, lower taxes, less crime, etc.), while the NDP offers us a tolerant country that expresses itself in more socially progressive ways (public health care and broadcasting, climate and personal protections, etc.). That’s a choice.

On Monday, I personally will vote for country: for the Canada that can be. I will vote for a return to tolerance and decency, balancing the social with the economic. Canada can once again be a beacon to a world going rapidly out of balance on the side of privilege and greed. Henry Mintzberg (www.mintzberg.org), O.C., ONQ, is co-editing a collection of essays entitled “Canadians on Balance”.

I Have Never Voted for a Winning Candidate

OK Canada. Are you ready to vote.

I already have since I will be working at a poll during the election.

For an election the pundits claimed would be a yawnfest it sure hasn't turned out that way. This election is anyone's guess.

I don't want to jinx my candidate but, I was talking with friends the other day and it occurred to me that I don't think that I have ever, in a Federal Election, voted for a candidate who actually won his/her seat. Not withstanding that, I never miss a chance to vote.

Hold on to your hats. This might be a first for me.

Book Launch a Full House

Anne McDonald
So many people turned up at The Bushwakker to take part in Anne McDonald's launch of her new novel To the Edge of the Sea last night that, even with the added extra tables, everyone who wanted in, couldn't fit into the Arizona Room. I am not sure I have been to a "sold out" book launch before, ever.

Scott McGillivray who flew in from Vancouver for the launch and opened the event, welcomed everyone, old friends and new. He turned things over to Shelley Banks who introduced Anne and noted that although this is her first novel, Anne has very strong writing credentials going back many years.

Anne read from several portions of the novel explaining what the Fathers of Confederation were up to and helping to tie the characters together in what was an exciting time and place in Canada's history..

After names were drawn for door prizes, quite appropriately from a top hat, there was a rousing rendition of the Canadian Boat Song which the exuberant crown joined in singing.

It was a great evening.

When all the books were signed and the crowd thinned out, our group of floor hockey friends stayed late drinking beer and finishing off the potato skins.


Don't Miss the Book Launch

See You There
My friend Anne McDonald is launching her novel To the Edge of the Sea tonight Thursday April 28, in the Arizona Room at Bushwakkers. It is scheduled to begin at 7:30. This should be the most interesting book launch of the year in Regina. There will be a reading, door prizes, potato skins, great beer and an opportunity to get your hands on this great book.

In the middle of an election, the launch of a book about the time and events around the shaky start of our Confederation seems just right.

The book is published by Thistledown Press. They say Anne McDonald weaves a series of spells that pull this beautifully written novel through a tightly woven script. Rich in tone and textured for a very rewarding reading experience, To the Edge of the Sea combines great storytelling with polished literary control.

I have seen an advance copy. It looks great. I can’t wait to read it. Who could argue that a book about our first Prime Minister, a tightrope walker, a travelling road show and cases and cases of champagne wouldn’t catch your attention.

So I very much hope that you can make it and I hope to see you there.

Oh yeah, just a note, bring cash. Bushwakkers doesn’t have an ATM and author’s events are traditionally low tech. (read no debit machine)


Corporate Canada Doesn't Have a Vote

I read in the paper this morning that corporate Canada is concerned about the NDP surge and particularly the possibility of  Jack Layton becoming Prime Minister. The fact that there is much hand wringing in corporate  board rooms should come at little surprise. I would imagine any big corporation facing tax cuts implemented by the Harper crowd would worry about extra taxes and if Jack gets in power they will have to re-think their lobbying strategy on Parliament Hill. Doors won't be propped open in anticipation of their arrival any longer.

Hold on to your hats over the next few days. Corporate spokespeople will be speculating that the NDP surge will lower the Canadian dollar, create financial instability and threaten you with higher mortgages. The thing to remember that these bright lights in the economic brain trust are the same bunch whose incompetence brought us the recent economic collapse.

The real question the media should be asking is "Who cares what corporate Canada thinks?"

The best thing corporate Canada can do is butt out. Wake up boys and girls of the fourth estate, corporate Canada doesn't have a vote and seldom look out for any interests other than their own..


Canadian Democracy at the Crossroads

The following is fact sheet prepared by writer and activist Helen Forsey. I thought I'd share it

Canadians are privileged to live in a democracy. Our parliamentary system has evolved over centuries, and our political parties reflect the diversity and freedom of thought we enjoy as citizens.

One result of this freedom and diversity is that in some elections, no one party wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons. This means that whichever party forms the government has to co-operate with others in order to get laws passed and stay in power. This is called “minority government”, and it can work very well. All it takes is honesty, respect, and a willingness to co-operate across differences.

However, the present government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has thumbed its nose at our elected Parliament and made “minority” a dirty word. Harper’s Conservatives have misled the House of Commons, kept vital information secret, fired public safety watchdogs, systematically sabotaged parliamentary committees, and twice shut down Parliament itself rather than face criticism.

This election really is about our democracy. Canadians have a right to expect fairness, honesty and respect from our system of government. Instead, the Harper regime has given us five years of injustice, corruption and contempt.

Harper uses a stack of fairy tales about our parliamentary system to trick people into thinking they have to vote Conservative in order to avoid disaster. In reality, his threats about the opposition “seizing power” or forcing a fresh election are shameless scare tactics based on lies.

Lie #1: Coalitions are evil and illegitimate.

Not true. Coalitions are totally constitutional, and can be the most sensible way to govern co-operatively and respect the will of a majority of voters.

Lie #2: Canadians elect the prime minister.

Not true. We elect some 300 Members of Parliament to the House of Commons.

Lie #3: The party that wins the most seats necessarily forms the government.

Not true. The governing party must win – and keep – the confidence of our elected MPs through confidence votes in the House.

Lie #4: Defeating a government on a confidence motion forces a fresh election.

Not necessarily. If a recently elected House votes to defeat a government, the Governor General calls on the leader of the opposition to form a government and seek the confidence of the House.

Lie #5: It is an illegitimate “seizure of power” if the opposition accepts the Governor General’s invitation to replace a government that has lost the confidence of the House.

Not true. In fact, the opposition has what amounts to a constitutional duty to try to form a viable government with the recently elected Parliament, with no need for a repeat election.

As Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has treated our elected Parliament like an annoying irrelevancy. His government has behaved so outrageously that it has finally been formally found “in contempt of Parliament”. Now he wants to win a Conservative majority so he can do even more damage.

People all over the world are risking their lives to achieve democracy. Let’s not allow the Harper Conservatives to destroy ours from the inside.

Prime Minister Layton a Remote but Interesting Possibility

Whoever said this election was going to be a sleeper. Not me for sure.  Anything can happen at this point although it does look like the Liberals are tanking. Just goes to show you, a little honesty can sink a campaign faster that a scud missile.

Could the NDP become the official opposition? What for many was unthinkable, is now within reach but I am not sure it is the cause for celebration I once thought it would be. We just keep splitting the vote allowing Harper to stroll up the middle. I am not sure what that gets us.

I am probably one of the few Canadians with a Coalition Yes sign is the window. I think we need to try the alternative. What we have had over the last few years just isn't working.

Historically minority governments govern in a cooperative fashion. Minorities have given Canadians some of our best legislation over the years. What we have seen recently is just the opposite. The Harper "my way or the highway" bully boy politics  should not work in a minority but both the Liberals and the NDP have for the most part been too weak, or lacking in self confidence to challenge the status quo.  

So, I have my fingers crossed. It looks like Harper will win again supported by less than a majority of Canadians all thanks to our broken electoral system. Faced with that probibility, the best outcome would be a weak Conservative win, a defeat of their first budget and a coalition government. Jack Layton as Prime Minister? Doubtful but not out of the question.

If Harper gets a majority what does that leave us with. A country more divided, more polarized, more bitter than ever before.

Get out and vote Canada.