Not very prime ministerial

Lana
Lana Payne
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"Leadership, at one time, meant muscles," said the great Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, "but today it means getting along with people."

Not surprisingly, Stephen Harper is no student of Gandhi - for he has failed this test of modern-day leadership.

He chose muscle over conciliation. He chose partisanship and political one-upmanship over the very real economic worries of Canadians.

"Leadership, at one time, meant muscles," said the great Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, "but today it means getting along with people."

Not surprisingly, Stephen Harper is no student of Gandhi - for he has failed this test of modern-day leadership.

He chose muscle over conciliation. He chose partisanship and political one-upmanship over the very real economic worries of Canadians.

He chose a mean-spirited, hard-right agenda over an economic plan for our nation. This choice came in the face of economic stimulus plans by nearly every industrialized nation on the planet.

Earlier this fall, the G-20 Summit called on governments to "take urgent and exceptional measures" to stimulate their economies in a co-ordinated way to stop the world from slipping into a recession. Most countries are doing just that by investing about two per cent of their gross domestic product into their economies. This would be about $30 billion in Canada. Instead, the Conservatives chose to cut $9 billion in spending over the next three years. That is not an economic plan. Even mainstream economists have called for the federal government to invest in the economy - to spend wisely, but to spend.

Instead, the November economic statement by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty left Canadians high and dry while his boss played a political cat-and-mouse game with the opposition parties by attacking public financing of our political system, the right to strike and pay equity.

These measures may play to Harper's right-wing base, but in a minority government, he needs to play well with others and not just cater to his friends.

Having battered the Liberals in the last sitting of the House, goading them over and over again to pull the plug on his government, Harper picked right up where he left off. He did that despite promises that he would be different and despite promises that he would work to take the dysfunction out of Parliament.

His political gamble failed as the Liberals found their spine.

As I write this column (around mid-week in order to meet Telegram deadlines), the politics in Ottawa were as fierce as we'd ever seen.

The opposition parties have said they no longer have confidence in the prime minister. The Liberals and the NDP have forged a coalition to form the government in the event that Harper is defeated. Our British parliamentary system depends on the House of Commons having confidence in the prime minister.

But as the political drama continued to unfold, with fear-mongering overtaking reason, Harper did not have to look far to find blame.

In fact, his own people should be ready to write his political obituary because he has done them a great disservice.

So how did we get here? In large part, because of the personality of our prime minister.

He couldn't change. He didn't learn from past experience. He fundamentally failed to understand that a minority government is exactly that. He does not have the authority or the will of the people to act as if he had a majority. And by doing so he has exhibited extreme disrespect for Canadian voters.

Harper's addiction to winning at all costs, his ruthless desire to embarrass his opponents, his total disrespect for democracy and his obsession with control have all led to this day of reckoning and to what may be his ultimate downfall.

Shakespearean

William Shakespeare would have found much here in which to consider - given his fondness for exposing man's fatal flaws.

And in Harper he would have seen a prime minister who ultimately failed to understand what being a prime minister is all about. A prime minister builds a nation. He does not, as Harper did late last week, try to tear it apart with fear.

This is a prime minister so wrapped up in his own arrogance that he thumbed his nose at the wishes of Canadians. Those wishes, as expressed through the election of a minority government, were to make Parliament work.

Just as importantly, he showed how removed he is from the economic pain so many Canadian families and businesses are already feeling. He chose to do nothing as Canadians lose their jobs, as entire communities are devastated by plant closures and as factories and businesses are forced to close their doors.

He ignored the very real hardship and circumstances of the nation's citizens.

This is not leadership.

This is a prime minister who fundamentally does not understand that a prime minister's job is to act in times of crisis, not play games.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Not surprisingly, Harper missed this lesson in leadership, too.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by e-mail at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns Dec. 20.

Organizations: Conservatives, NDP, House of Commons Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Geoff
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    What do you get when you pit an antisocial sandbox bully with few friends and fearful minions against a professor with no party support, who's knowledge and wisdom(very useful tools for a leader) is devastated by a crippling lack of articulation(also a useful tool); an eager beaver everyman who would like to tax the hell out of everyone with a work ethic or a vague pulse, to take care of everything that ails society(some ailments just need a good boot in backcheeks); a cloak and dagger seditionist /treasonist wannabe(just a plain old elitist separatist who can't find enough support to pave the way to freedom ) and a bunch of apathetic navel gazing crybabies who passed up the chance to vote to crossing their fingers and hoping, everything will turn out right . Well of course you get what probably many of those interested parties in the rest of the world get. A gobsmacking waste of a good country. Grow up Canada, you got it good, make it better.

  • Staver
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Perhaps the Telegram should think about optics and public perception when it comes to the articles / columns they print.

    The story yesterday about the pro-coalition rally where Ms. Payne's support was demonstrated loud and clear was a nice objective article about the facts.

    The Telegram has now given Ms. Payne to express her viewpoint even more (which is fine).

    However, is the Telegram prepared to offer the same kind of opportunity to Canadians that DO NOT support the coalition?

    To make things clear, I am not an anti-union person, and I have even been a member of a number of different public service unions. Unions can work when people don't take advantage of them.

    It is unfortunate when Unions (and Union members) subsequently try to milk the system or consistently use the phrase that's not in my job description .

    In my opinion, it is the combination of poor management (vision) and greedy unions that have caused Canada's Auto Industry suffer (paying top dollar to workers with no drive, for an inferior product). Sure they have great working conditions and great benefits (which are important) but look at the end result. I can still remember being in a Ford plant in the early 90's where untrained labour was getting $25-$30 / hour + benefits.

    I hope the government (although if the NDP is in power I doubt they would even be able to comprehend the above paragraph) does not buy out the Auto Industry.


    Staver in St. John's

  • Roger Pike
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Is The Telegram so desperate that it continues to print the useless crap provided to it by Lany Payne. If not for he obvious dedication to anythiong NDP the woman has nothing meaningfull to say. Yet here we are talking about it. I dont know what is more frustrating. The fact that the Telegram prints her garbage or the fact that she continues to write it.

  • HoH oHo
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Perhaps the dissenters on this topic might be able to contribute something of substance instead of character assassination...Is there anything that is remotely associated with labor or for that matter just good governance that might be able to stir the juices of justice other than your opinion stinks .....The opinion is Harper jousts for his personal ambition.....Yes or no?? Harper has or has not injected an economic stimulus into Canadian financial markets; yes or no?? His G20 meetings suggestions of taking action to stem the loss of jobs and bolster the economy through infrastructure incentives in Canada is being implemented as they are in other G20 countries; yes or no??? His economic spending is both focused and appropriate for Canadian markets and conditions; yes or no?? Has Harper's announcements been truthful and objective in his analysis of current problems; yes or no?? and so on.....Attacking the personal opinion of anyone, does not rectify the fact that this PM has hedged, lied, stretched the truth, deflected questions that would have brought his real intentions to light, fanned the flames of separatism not only in Quebec but in the western provinces as well...and has generally been a one man show from the time he became PM of this country... His objective is to destroy all credible opposition to his ambition and attempt to divide a country that has in many cases been the envy of Europe and many African and Asian nations. The pride of country has been continually been eroded by a self centered PM who just cannot function with another entity unless there is complete subservience... Whether or not you agree with Payne's evaluation of current affairs, you will have to agree that there is NOW, if there was not previously, complete dysfunction within the governing body of Parliament...

    AS she states --- Harper's addiction to winning at all costs, his ruthless desire to embarrass his opponents, his total disrespect for democracy and his obsession with control have all led to this day of reckoning and to what may be his ultimate downfall.

    This observation is not only her's, but bears the same analysis as some of the most influential constitutional and parliamentary personalities from around the country including some foreign.. he is, in my opinion, bent on the separating this country ideological, politically, regionally, and constitutionally...And given his success to date he just might achieve his goals.

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    In times of difficulty, we should stand behind our leader. This is not the time for our elected politicians to act like a pack of wolves baying at the door.

    Dion is not a alpha male. The other wolves are nipping at his feet. This so called coalition will not last until parliament reopens.

    Has anyone heard of cooperation and compromise?

    Lana Payne has enough difficulty keeping the wolves away from her door in the her disjoint labour federation.

  • Bill
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    I guess the Conservatives can't count on your vote in the next election, Lana, but then they never could. The West is solidly behind Harper and of course he has faults one of them being a big ego. But then who accomplished anything without one.

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Lana Payne,you are a fool,that is very clear.Why would Canadians accept a Socialist/Separatist Coalition.What has this coalition promised the unions?Why is The Telegram so pro-coalision?Makes people wonder.

  • Funky
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Great article.

    Quote:
    He couldn't change. He didn't learn from past experience. He fundamentally failed to understand that a minority government is exactly that. He does not have the authority or the will of the people to act as if he had a majority. And by doing so he has exhibited extreme disrespect for Canadian voters.

    The best summation of fault for this whole fiasco.

  • Beverly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Character assination HoH oHo? What charcter? The woman thrives on that very topic. Thats about all she does is attact attack with little or no substance. Thanks to the Telegram for letting her show us on a regular basis just how out of touch she is. Typical NDP garbage. All the answers but no real plan to achieve anything.

  • Geoff
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    What do you get when you pit an antisocial sandbox bully with few friends and fearful minions against a professor with no party support, who's knowledge and wisdom(very useful tools for a leader) is devastated by a crippling lack of articulation(also a useful tool); an eager beaver everyman who would like to tax the hell out of everyone with a work ethic or a vague pulse, to take care of everything that ails society(some ailments just need a good boot in backcheeks); a cloak and dagger seditionist /treasonist wannabe(just a plain old elitist separatist who can't find enough support to pave the way to freedom ) and a bunch of apathetic navel gazing crybabies who passed up the chance to vote to crossing their fingers and hoping, everything will turn out right . Well of course you get what probably many of those interested parties in the rest of the world get. A gobsmacking waste of a good country. Grow up Canada, you got it good, make it better.

  • Staver
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Perhaps the Telegram should think about optics and public perception when it comes to the articles / columns they print.

    The story yesterday about the pro-coalition rally where Ms. Payne's support was demonstrated loud and clear was a nice objective article about the facts.

    The Telegram has now given Ms. Payne to express her viewpoint even more (which is fine).

    However, is the Telegram prepared to offer the same kind of opportunity to Canadians that DO NOT support the coalition?

    To make things clear, I am not an anti-union person, and I have even been a member of a number of different public service unions. Unions can work when people don't take advantage of them.

    It is unfortunate when Unions (and Union members) subsequently try to milk the system or consistently use the phrase that's not in my job description .

    In my opinion, it is the combination of poor management (vision) and greedy unions that have caused Canada's Auto Industry suffer (paying top dollar to workers with no drive, for an inferior product). Sure they have great working conditions and great benefits (which are important) but look at the end result. I can still remember being in a Ford plant in the early 90's where untrained labour was getting $25-$30 / hour + benefits.

    I hope the government (although if the NDP is in power I doubt they would even be able to comprehend the above paragraph) does not buy out the Auto Industry.


    Staver in St. John's

  • Roger Pike
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Is The Telegram so desperate that it continues to print the useless crap provided to it by Lany Payne. If not for he obvious dedication to anythiong NDP the woman has nothing meaningfull to say. Yet here we are talking about it. I dont know what is more frustrating. The fact that the Telegram prints her garbage or the fact that she continues to write it.

  • HoH oHo
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Perhaps the dissenters on this topic might be able to contribute something of substance instead of character assassination...Is there anything that is remotely associated with labor or for that matter just good governance that might be able to stir the juices of justice other than your opinion stinks .....The opinion is Harper jousts for his personal ambition.....Yes or no?? Harper has or has not injected an economic stimulus into Canadian financial markets; yes or no?? His G20 meetings suggestions of taking action to stem the loss of jobs and bolster the economy through infrastructure incentives in Canada is being implemented as they are in other G20 countries; yes or no??? His economic spending is both focused and appropriate for Canadian markets and conditions; yes or no?? Has Harper's announcements been truthful and objective in his analysis of current problems; yes or no?? and so on.....Attacking the personal opinion of anyone, does not rectify the fact that this PM has hedged, lied, stretched the truth, deflected questions that would have brought his real intentions to light, fanned the flames of separatism not only in Quebec but in the western provinces as well...and has generally been a one man show from the time he became PM of this country... His objective is to destroy all credible opposition to his ambition and attempt to divide a country that has in many cases been the envy of Europe and many African and Asian nations. The pride of country has been continually been eroded by a self centered PM who just cannot function with another entity unless there is complete subservience... Whether or not you agree with Payne's evaluation of current affairs, you will have to agree that there is NOW, if there was not previously, complete dysfunction within the governing body of Parliament...

    AS she states --- Harper's addiction to winning at all costs, his ruthless desire to embarrass his opponents, his total disrespect for democracy and his obsession with control have all led to this day of reckoning and to what may be his ultimate downfall.

    This observation is not only her's, but bears the same analysis as some of the most influential constitutional and parliamentary personalities from around the country including some foreign.. he is, in my opinion, bent on the separating this country ideological, politically, regionally, and constitutionally...And given his success to date he just might achieve his goals.

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    In times of difficulty, we should stand behind our leader. This is not the time for our elected politicians to act like a pack of wolves baying at the door.

    Dion is not a alpha male. The other wolves are nipping at his feet. This so called coalition will not last until parliament reopens.

    Has anyone heard of cooperation and compromise?

    Lana Payne has enough difficulty keeping the wolves away from her door in the her disjoint labour federation.

  • Bill
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    I guess the Conservatives can't count on your vote in the next election, Lana, but then they never could. The West is solidly behind Harper and of course he has faults one of them being a big ego. But then who accomplished anything without one.

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Lana Payne,you are a fool,that is very clear.Why would Canadians accept a Socialist/Separatist Coalition.What has this coalition promised the unions?Why is The Telegram so pro-coalision?Makes people wonder.

  • Funky
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Great article.

    Quote:
    He couldn't change. He didn't learn from past experience. He fundamentally failed to understand that a minority government is exactly that. He does not have the authority or the will of the people to act as if he had a majority. And by doing so he has exhibited extreme disrespect for Canadian voters.

    The best summation of fault for this whole fiasco.

  • Beverly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Character assination HoH oHo? What charcter? The woman thrives on that very topic. Thats about all she does is attact attack with little or no substance. Thanks to the Telegram for letting her show us on a regular basis just how out of touch she is. Typical NDP garbage. All the answers but no real plan to achieve anything.