The Epistle of Q — Chapter Eighty-Nine (Part A)

What has been happening to keep me away from my Editorialog?
Good question and I wish I had a good answer. But let me start with a bit of sad news. One of my long-time friends in the Academy [Dr. Tom Wilson] died a couple of months ago. I’m sad, in part because I wasn’t informed right away. I’m sad because I was going to call him when I went through LAX next week (he lived in Laguna Beach). I’m sad because he was such an eclectic person and I won’t get to talk to him any more. Tom and I could talk about hot/fast cars as much as we could talk about ethical reasoning. We were somewhat alike in that we were outliers in the Academy although he was always in the Academy.

We met while I was working on my doctorate and was attending a course in ethics at the University of California — Irvine. Later he came to the U of Saskatchewan to teach at one of the summer schools I designed and directed for Indian Affairs. We would meet at conferences and occasionally he hosted me at his home when I was in California on academia-related business. He was bright, he was inventive, and he was funny. I grieve for his widow Jeannie (i.e. Jean) and for his family, but most of all I am just said that the world has lost a very thoughtful and intensively reflective ethics thinker.

Ironically I learned of his passing as I journey home from my annual trek to the AGM & Conference of the Association of Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE). I’m going to have more to say about this conference, which was held in a rather intriguing city — Baltimore, but before I get to that I just need to make a couple of comments that emerged while I was in Baltimore…

As Canadians we need to tone down our sense of moral superiority over our American neighbours. I was able to watch the interrogation of Michael Cohen by the US Congress Committee at the same time I viewed the Jody Wilson-Reybould moment at the House of Commons Committee. Now, you know that I have conservative leanings; but let me assure you that no matter what (and my great Uncle Will Sinclair was a significant player in Ontario Liberal politics back in the early part of the last century), I have not seen a more bumbling performance than the current Liberal leadership in Ottawa. Sunny Ways are over (if they ever were really alive). This isn’t about the scandal — in fact, the SNC issue could have been dealt with last autumn by a simple change in the legislation from ten to two years probation. That I place on the PMO (which is no less authoritarian than that of Justin’s father, or Stephen — the Liberals’ evil predecessor — or even Chretien) because they obviously don’t know how to really run the system.

I also know Jody’s father from my days at SEP (Salmonid Enhancement) and he was no pushover. So if the daughter takes after the father, they should have known that she would not be an easy fit in cabinet. But JT is not a realist and the Liberals wanted a poster-boy not a leader — and that is the result. When you don’t have a leader at the helm and you have as his senior adviser, his best friend who doesn’t understand people west of Lake Superior let alone like them, problems are going to emerge.  It all has reminded me of the Nixon Watergate issue, and it also is mirroring more than some might like to admit, the Cohen moment in the USA. Politics are not being done in a new way in Canada — not saying that this can’t change, but it won’t happen on this current government’s watch.

We as Canadians have asked for this. We have let the politicians have free rein. We have allowed them to think only of being re-elected — not of governing in the best interests of all of us. Just like the USA, we need to do a re-set. Why does the media (and the Liberal pundits) focus on the potential of jobs lost in Quebec but not in the oil patch (and when they acknowledge those protests it is to point out there are some dangerous kooks in the group — as if there aren’t some similar kooks in the PMO)?  Our national government still does business as usual and they finally are admitting it. Is that wrong? I don’t know, but I’m surprised that some of the bright women I know in the federal public service haven’t reached out to tell me that they are on the side of the two women who resigned. They haven’t said to me that they agree that women generally approach politics and public service differently — more collectively, less boss man.

I’m also disappointed that my Liberal friends haven’t yet told me that they are disgusted with the performance of the Clerk of the Privy Council who stepped away outside his appropriate boundaries. There have been many more serious scandals in Ottawa — there just haven’t been any as badly managed and as significantly non-admitted… I really thought this government might rein in the issue quickly and get in front of the process — apologize to Canadians as well as to Jody and get her back in the saddle, clean up the PMO and spread the responsibilities among the cabinet ministers themselves and show us the new way of doing things. Alas, I’m obviously too idealistic even yet.

The question, of course, remains as to whether Andrew Scheer will use this as a lesson for himself. The opportunity is right in front of him to take the reins, lay out the plan(s) and march towards the autumn election making sure that the Conservatives are seriously out in front of all the key issues and firmly committed to governing in a different way — smaller PMO, more cabinet responsibility, better backbench participation and generally a government that worries less about the following election (in 2023) and more about the need to provide open and dynamic government in the interim (2019-2023).

For now, I’ll leave it to you to ponder what you want to see. But I hope it is more than rote followership, the likes of which we are seeing from people like Freeland and Morneau.

Enjoy your weekend…hopefully it comes…