The English language leaders’ debate in the 2021 Canadian election was disappointing on a number of levels. Among other things, the questions were almost all based on left-wing, liberal, and “progressive” assumptions and therefore received left-wing, liberal, and “progressive” answers. They were generally concerned with how the federal government was going to help or fund various groups, not whether these groups really need help, whether the federal government should help them, or whether the government is able to help them. For instance, one question assumed that seniors need more money. The reality is that some seniors need help and many do not. (I live on a modest income and am one of those who do not.)
But the primary question I would like to discuss here was posed to Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. He was asked whether he was able to control his caucus (on abortion, vaccines, climate change, etc.). O’Toole responded using the same assumption that the questioner had. He said that he controlled his caucus, that he was “driving the bus.” It should be noted that the question was asked of O’Toole because it was assumed that the other leaders control their caucuses better than he does.
No one seemed to even consider whether a party leader or a prime minister should “control” his caucus. We elect members of Parliament with the understanding that each of them is to represent the wishes of a little over 100,000 Canadians. They are paid a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year to do this work. It is a very important and responsible job, and parties and voters take care to select skilled and experienced people to these positions. Three dozen or so of the best of these MPs are then chosen by the prime minister to run various government departments and form the cabinet and make joint decisions in the best interests of the country. For this, they are paid considerably more than the other MPs.
So, why would we think that a prime minister or party leader should “control” these representatives of the people, who are reputed to be among the best and brightest in the nation? Why would we expect these people to be a bunch of mindless twits who do not think for themselves but believe and do whatever the party leader says? Why would a minister be placed in charge of a government department spending billions of dollars a year but be too stupid or incompetent to do his job unless the prime minister tells him or her how to do it?
This is the kind of prime minister Justin Trudeau is. He makes up policies on a whim and expects his cabinet ministers to implement them. This is why so many of them do nothing until the prime minister tells them to act and why so little gets done. And when he tells one of his ministers to break the law and she has the audacity to think for herself and refuse, he fires her. Justin Trudeau acts as if he has the only brain in his party and his cabinet, and sadly it has proven to be a very inferior brain.
This is not leadership. It is dictatorship. Dictators do not attract competent people. They attract yes men and sycophants and people who have no integrity or morals or ethics but will blindly obey orders.
Real leaders have a vision and a character that other competent people admire and are willing to follow—not because they will receive some personal benefit but because they believe in the leader’s vision and character. These are not blind followers but people who have minds of their own, who are capable of developing ideas and policies of their own, who are competent enough to fulfill their responsibilities on their own without supervision. They will have skills and expertise and knowledge separate from their leaders. They may disagree with their leaders at times, but the collective wisdom of such people will produce better decisions than any single leader, no matter how great, could ever produce.
Whether a party leader can control his caucus was the wrong question and received the wrong answer. The proper question is whether a party leader can attract competent people who will work with him to provide good government.