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article imageOp-Ed: Failure of leadership in highest levels of government

By Mike Lapointe     May 26, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - First there was the nearly $600 million in misspent funds for phantom gas plants in Ontario.
Then the second-most important person in federal politics steps down for his role in the biggest spending scandal since sponsorship.
Now we cast our weary eyes towards the ongoing political meltdown at city hall in Toronto that’s just not going away anytime soon.
And of course let’s not forget about the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Conservative ‘robocalls’ in the 2011 election.
What else can possibly go wrong?
One by one Canada’s biggest city, province, and national government have all fallen victim to unprecedented crises in political leadership, remarkably all at the same time.
McGuinty took his leave from politics – for now at least – earlier this year after his prorogation of the Ontario legislature. But rather than actually dealing with the issue, and taking full responsibility for hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that have essentially vanished, he scurried out the door in a matter of hours once he realized just how massive the gas-plant fiasco would eventually turn out to be. There is definitely more to come on that one.
Harper now finds himself in a position where he has run out of ways to obfuscate the truth. The poor behaviour of three senators, all of whom were appointed by our current Prime Minister, has turned out to be much more than the mighty Conservative media management team can spin. The truth will come out, and it will hurt them in the next election – just as was the case with the Liberals under Paul Martin in 2006.
The big difference here is that Martin himself called for the inquiry that ultimately sunk his tenure as Prime Minister. If past events are any indication, Harper will not follow Martin’s example, and will instead seek to avoid responsibility for as long as possible for what could have been an easily manageable problem. As for the robocalls, it’s safe to say we can largely expect no reaction from the PMO.
Ford’s week-late assurance on Thursday that he “does not use crack cocaine” and is not “an addict of crack cocaine” is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of accountability (it’s probably best that the mayor of Toronto isn’t a crack-addict). But his failure to explain why he fired his own chief of staff last week is the culmination of years of acrimonious media relations in a city where media matters most. Given that his brother Doug, and not the mayor himself, has been making the media rounds lately only makes things worse.
Scandals are a part of politics, as is professional crisis management. They happen all the time, particularly to governments who have enjoyed the spoils of power for many consecutive years (McGuinty, Harper, and Ford all fit the bill here). Minimizing damage is part of doing business.
But the events of the last two years are beyond ridiculous. Whether it’s irresponsibility, callousness, or just plain laziness on the part of three men at the pinnacle of their political careers, the events that have transpired in this province and in Canada over the last two years are beyond reproach. They smack of the hubris of power.
But perhaps what is most troubling is that these ‘leaders’ are supposed to represent the interests of the public and set an example for those who come next. These three men, all at the pinnacle of their careers not more than a year ago, are the ones who the leaders of tomorrow are supposed to emulate.
These individuals were tasked with leading the governments ultimately responsible for shaping the political and economic landscape my generation is set to inherit in a few short decades – or even sooner depending on how things shake out this year.
If obfuscation at the highest levels of government has become the goal, then so be it. But I would hazard to guess that this is not the Canada that under-30’s have in mind. It’s time for a higher form of politics, one where leadership actually matters, and one where accountability isn’t some abstract term used by speechwriters during campaigns.
Leaders of this stature need to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us. Sometimes that involves admitting mistakes were made. The truth always comes out anyway.
Follow me on Twitter: @MikeJ_Lapointe
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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