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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Don't Put Brand Before Health

God, this makes me sad.

First off - Ministers of Finance don't create jobs.  The only way they'd do that is by directly hiring themselves, which, given the Conservative government's disdain for the public sector, isn't likely.

But it's the rest of the statement that's absolutely tragic.  What does Flaherty's past record have to do with his current health?  It's great that Flaherty's abilities have the confidence of the Prime Minister - so, what's the PM doing to help his number one minister on the health front so he can do his job, or create the right accommodations for him?

Look, I get it - politics is all about finding and exploiting weak links.  Parties have to circle the wagons, deny anything is ever wrong (until they can't, at which point someone goes under the bus) and only ever point to successes.  To do otherwise is to let down your firewall and risk contagion or assault.

Harper's got good reason to position himself this way; if the roles were reversed, he would probably relish pointing out how an opposite member was not up to the job.  It's pretty clear that some of the existing opposition forces are looking for how best to exploit Flaherty's condition as well.

But if Flaherty's not allowed a misstep, if his Party is going to put brand before the man's health, what happens to him?

I've argued before that a good deal of the Rob Ford fiascoes that consume City Hall are related to partisan positioning, an antiquated view on wellness and poor support and training for politicians and their staff.  

Anyone that's been involved with politics has known a politicians who hid illnesses - and in some cases, had their addictions covered up by Parties - so as not to appear weak in the public/media's eye. Politics is a bloodsport, after all - if you can't cut it for any reason, you're not meant to be there.  

But politicians are human - they do a difficult, under-appreciated, poorly supported job, often far away from home.  It's noble work, but so's working in a hospice or serving with the police - but those professions take conditions like emotional fatigue syndrome seriously.  They also, in fits and spurts, do a better job of recognizing and accommodating physical illness.  

After all, it's not about the appearance of doing a good job or being able to point to a history of performance - it's about sustainability.  How do we help people continue to do a good job now and in the future?  How do we support transitions, institutional memory transfer, so on and so forth?  

Perhaps most importantly, because the whole point of work and politics is to support the social construct, thereby supporting individual well-being - how are we ensuring that individual wellness is at the centre of everything we do?

The truth is that we aren't.  We put "the economy" before the workers and "the Party" before the Members.  

It's not a crime that Flaherty is sick.  No one should be using illness as a stick to beat him with.  In fact, if he's on drugs that impact his mood, then colleagues on both sides of the House who respect him as a person and want to see him do his job to the best of his ability should be taking this reality into account during conversations (or confrontations).

I don't know Flaherty and I'm not particularly fond of his approach to politics or policy.  But I respect the fact that he is a human being, a husband and a father and, like the rest of us, mortal.

There's a lesson to be learned in this, if anyone's looking - one that ties into a much bigger, emerging picture about social stability and renewing labour in a changing economy.  We can understand the human reality and the social matrix and do both better; strong individuals can and should be the foundation of a strong society.  

But that would be a bit too much like committing sociology.

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