A fail­ure in lead­er­ship, by the book

The Compass - - SPORTS - Peter Pick­ers­gill pic@xplor­net.com Peter Pick­ers­gill is an artist and writer in Sal­vage, Bon­av­ista Bay. He can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing: pick­ers­gill@mac.com

It is hard to imag­ine a wider gulf be­tween ide­olo­gies than the one that sep­a­rates Stephen Harper and Lor­raine Michael.

Michael is a so­cial­ist. A true be­liever.

If Canada had a Tea Party like they do in the U.S.A., then Harper would be its leader. Come to think of it, Canada did have a Tea Party once, only they called it the Re­form Party. Stephen Harper was a mem­ber, but saw that Canada as a whole was not right-wing enough so he quit to lead the Na­tional Cit­i­zen’s Coali­tion, where be­ing very right-wing is not only not a prob­lem, but manda­tory.

Bid­ing his time on the side­lines he ob­served the evo­lu­tion un­der first Pre­ston Man­ning, then Stock­well Day, from Re­form Party to the Cana­dian Al­liance. This meta­mor­pho­sis in­cluded a very brief pe­riod when it was en­ti­tled Cana­dian Con­ser­va­tive Re­form Al­liance Party. This name lasted a mere 24 hours un­til party mem­bers re­al­ized the gales of crossCanada laugh­ter were the re­sult of the ini­tials of the party: C.C.R.A.P.

Once the dust had set­tled, Harper re­turned to lead the Cana­dian Al­liance, whose ini­tials, C.A., are those used by Char­tered Ac­coun­tants. They im­ply lead­er­ship that is fru­gal, re­spon­si­ble and cau­tious, char­ac­ter­is­tics Harper hoped Cana­di­ans would be­lieve were his own.

Harper promptly conned Peter Mackay, the leader of the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives, into a merger with the Cana­dian Al­liance that would unite the right un­der the name Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada. The merger took place, Harper be­came leader and Peter Mackay was left to joy-ride in Search and Res­cue he­li­copters equipped with fly rods and dip nets.

On his third elec­tion at­tempt Harper fi­nally achieved a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment and was free to shed his sheep’s cloth­ing and re­veal to the Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hoods among Cana­dian vot­ers what big teeth he had.

This is the piv­otal mo­ment in the evo­lu­tion of a po­lit­i­cal leader when, with power fi­nally achieved, he or she can re­veal their true iden­tity. And so can mem­bers of cau­cus.

Lor­raine Michael may not have achieved power yet, but it must have seemed like it to her. The NDP scored their best re­sult ever in the last elec­tion, with five seats in the House of As­sem­bly.

Against the back­drop of a Lib­eral Party in the process of de­cid­ing on a new leader and the Tory lead­er­ship in a spec­tac­u­lar melt­down, the pub­lic turned to Lor­raine and her gang. The party was at un­prece­dented pop­u­lar­ity in the polls and the leader’s num­bers were ex­tra­or­di­nary. Never be­fore seen, ei­ther by the leader or by her cau­cus, all four of whom signed the email that greeted Michael when she re­turned from a va­ca­tion. Buoyed by the wave of en­thu­si­asm from the pub­lic, the cau­cus de­manded her res­ig­na­tion and a lead­er­ship con­ven­tion.

Some­times those an­noy­ing things about the cap­tain that the crew is forced to tol­er­ate when the ves­sel is be­calmed, be­come im­pos­si­ble to bear when the wind be­gins to fill the sails and a change of skip­per seems to prom­ise more speed.

When she got wind of the mutiny, Lor­raine Michael, in­stead of swal­low­ing her pride and talk­ing things over, went pub­lic. Two of the mu­ti­neers begged for­give­ness and turned on the ring leader. The other two re­fused to re­cant and jumped ship. Now the NDP cau­cus is re­duced from five to three, the min­i­mum num­ber to qual­ify as a po­lit­i­cal party in the House of As­sem­bly.

The worst dam­age in­flicted on po­lit­i­cal par­ties of­ten comes from within. The pro­vin­cial NDP has found this out. And Stephen Harper is find­ing it out.

Un­like Lor­raine Michael, Stephen Harper is known to be well-prac­ticed at play­ing hard ball, but de­spite be­ing fa­mous as a con­trol freak, he seems to have for­got­ten the same fun­da­men­tal rule that the NDP leader and her mu­ti­neers for­got: peo­ple backed into a cor­ner have noth­ing to lose.

Both the pro­vin­cial NDP and the the Harper Con­ser­va­tives have al­ready been dealt se­vere blows with, quite pos­si­bly, more to come. The blows are self-in­flicted. Po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship is not easy. It is a con­stant bal­anc­ing act in which a leader must weigh the wishes of a cau­cus, party mem­bers and the vot­ers at large. A leader must bal­ance po­lit­i­cal doc­trine with com­mon sense, jus­tice with mercy, right with wrong.

Th­ese last few weeks have seen text­book cases of how not to demon­strate lead­er­ship. What does the fu­ture hold? Stand by.

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