Friday, March 30, 2007

In defense of floor crossers

Tim Peterson's defection from the McGuinty Liberals will no doubt spark the same howls of protest that accompanied other recent floor crossings.

(The fact that Peterson plans to sit as an independent until the October election will mollify some, but it's really irrelevant. He's already announced that he'll run as a PC. He appeared with John Tory at the announcement. Presumably he'll vote with the Tories in the legislature. The only thing that will differentiate him from the rest of the Conservative caucus is that he won't have access to the caucus research and communications services and he won't sit in caucus meetings. At least not officially. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck...)

But the condemnation of floor-crossers (with one exception I'll get to in a minute) has always rung hollow for me.

In our parliamentary democracy, each us votes for one Member of Parliament, based of course on their party affiliation and the leader of that party, but also because they are the individual we want to represent our interests in the House of Commons. That's right, we elect free-thinking individuals as our representatives. Through our vote, we empower them to make decisions on our behalf and choose to trust them to make those decisions to the best of their ability.

We choose humans to represent us, not automatons.

So, if in the course of doing the jobs their constituents empowered them to do, they decide that their party or their leader has veered off course (despite their best efforts to course-correct within caucus), and that another party has it right, then a reasonable case can be made that crossing the floor is with the best interests of constituents in mind. It's certainly within the range of decisions our votes empower them to make.

Of course personal ambition is a factor. And why shouldn't it be, as long as it's balanced against their responsibilities to constituents? Who amongst us doesn't factor our personal goals into our professional decision-making. Again, we choose humans to represent us, not automatons.

In the end, we have plenty of opportunities to express our views on how they should represent us, most importantly through our vote in the next election.

On balance, as a Liberal, I'd say we've gotten the better end of the deal. We get Scott Brison and Belinda Stronach. They get Wajid Khan. And it sounds like Peterson is not much of a prize for the provincial Tories — a pale shadow of his brothers by all accounts.

So I can criticise the decisions I don't like, but I can't condemn any of them for the choices they made, as disappointing as some of them may be.

With one notable exception that proves the rule. You can't even pretend to make the case that you're course-correcting just weeks after the election, and before the parliamentary session has even begun. Harper's and Emerson's actions in this were a blatant betrayal of voters and an insult to democracy.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Perfume bathers of the world, unite!

How to tell you're wearing too much perfume:
1. You can smell yourself (actually applies to any body odour).
2. Your monthly perfume budget is larger than your cable TV bill.
3. You have a monthly perfume budget.
4. Your bus driver stops the bus, opens all the windows and asks you to move the the part of the bus where other passengers are not.

How not to handle #4 above:
1. Assume that since no one has ever mentioned your excessive scent before, it must be the bus driver's problem. It's not like Canadians ever try to be polite or avoid confrontation.
2. Get a major media outlet to take up your cause célèbre.
3. Pose for picture in said media outlet's article, displaying ginormous, half-empty bottle of perfume.
4. Liken yourself to a key player in the civil rights movement [insert this writer's strangled scream].

You want to know why protest politics has become virtually irrelevant in the 21st century? This is why. Every time someone claims to be oppressed by the consequences of their own bad or inconsiderate behaviour, liberalism is tarnished, and the right gets yet another tool with which to dismiss the legitimate concerns of those who are genuinely oppressed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Okay, maybe my sense of humour is a bit twisted...

but I could watch this for hours.

Longing for a water cooler

My current role has me working from home, which is not my favourite place to work. Blurs the boundary between professional and personal even further than it already is, and it's isolating. I miss the opportunity for casual interaction with colleagues. But, until this project is finished, it's just me and my cat, Chicken, who's not much a conversationalist and is determined to lick my fingers, which is a decidedly unpleasant sensation. Also it interfreres witg my tyuping.

Maybe it's a grass is greener thing, but I've often met people who fantasized about working from home (which may say something about their fantasy lives), but I'm here to tell you that the novelty of working in your pajamas gets tired really fast.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Care and Feeding of Leaders

Having worked on Stéphane Dion's Liberal leadership bid, last night's Quebec election has me thinking a lot about the expectations we have of our leaders, and their fates if/when they disappoint. It's being widely speculated that the knives are already out for André Boisclair, PQ leader for less than a year. Mr. Dion could face an election as early as next month – his fifth month as Liberal leader. If he loses, will he face the same fate? Should he?

Boisclair has always struck me as a bit of a hair-do. Mostly charm, not a lot of substance. And it's not unreasonable to say he underperformed in this campaign. But in all fairness, it's too soon for him to be shown the door.

We say we want our leaders to be visionaries, and we ask them to take us down a road we can't see in its entirety. But then we look to punish them if they don't deliver immediate results. We forget (or ignore) that wars are combinations of battles and that winning strategies include contingency plans that take setbacks into account.

Last night's result is a setback for the sovereignty movement (let's hope for many more), but that setback is as much about the movement itself, and the shifting values of Quebeckers as it is about the guy at the helm. And the war's not over yet. If Boisclair is forced out at this stage of the game, it will be the movement's failing, not the leader's.

Given everything we put into choosing our leaders, and everything they put on the line for us, we owe them better than that. Something I hope the federal Liberals keep in mind if we're still in opposition after the next E-Day.

Monday, March 26, 2007

My first post

There was a time when I thought of myself as a writer. And as a consultant in the private sector, I used to send out a daily message to my subscribers — my thoughts and observations about things. Kind of a blog, I guess, but tied in with a call to action of some sort.

Then a few years ago, I moved out of the private sector and into politics, and the professional motivation to maintain the newsletter wasn't there anymore, so I stopped writing.

But I've watched the blogosphere expand like ripples on still water, and have begun to feel like writing again. I never stopped having ideas that felt worth sharing, but my motivation for sharing them changed.

And the identity thing has been holding me back. Do I use my real name, or do I adopt some pseudonym that will allow me to say what I think without having to worry about consequences? I work in politics. What if some of my ideas conflict with those of my leader, or my employer or others whose support I may want, to further my professional goals and objectives? If I post openly, will I have to censor myself?

This (the March 22nd post) and this helped me make up my mind. You don't have to like Warren Kinsella, and you don't have to agree with him, but he is unapologetically who he is and that takes guts.

Perhaps one of the most disappointing things about the manner in which the blogosphere has evolved is that because it's incredibly easy to be anonymous, there are few (if any) consequences to saying whatever you want. You can mock or ridicule others, you can promulgate outrageous lies, you can falsify your identity in order to have cybersex with 13-year-olds. You can do all these things because you don't have to look anyone in the eye and own your ideas and your actions.

"Scooter" or "Mark Bourie" or whoever he is is entitled to his opinions of Mr. Kinsella. But he's a coward for hiding his identity when he shares them and engages others to do the same. Life is about choices and consequences, something Mr. Kinsella knows all too well and which Scooter seems to lack the emotional maturity to understand.

And of course, having said all that, this blog isn't about Warren Kinsella or Scooter, except inasmuch as I thank them both for pushing me to get back out writing again, and to do it as myself.

In my old newsletter, I used to call on readers to take some sort of action, but motivating others is no longer the express purpose of my writings. Okay, maybe it is a little bit. But the only person whose action I can direct is my own. So here's my commitment to action: I'll share my ideas and work with the consequences. Like me or not, agree with me or not, it'll be who I am.