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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.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Ownership: Kathleen Wynne is a Leader with Balls

Here's Kathleen Wynne, using her own voice in an ad to take on the NDP.  While Leaders do this all the time when they know most people aren't paying attention - in Question Period, for instance, or during fundraiser speeches - how often is it we have a critical ad voiced by a Party's leader?

Not often.  Too often, our leaders want to steer clear of attaching their name to anything that takes a direct, repeatable poke at opposition.  

It's a known fact that people find attack ads distasteful, but that they are effective in negatively branding an opponent.  So, we get over-the-top ads like a mockery of Jean Chretien's facial paralysis, puffins pooping on Stephane Dion and Justin Trudeau "in over his head."

It's pretty inflamatory stuff.  Could you imagine any of these ads being made if they had to be voiced by the actual leader?  Nope.  Attack ads work in undermining opponents, but we find them distasteful coming from our statesmen and women.  

Which is why leaders steer clear.  Which is also why attack ads so frequently scrape the bottom of the barrel.

In her ad, Wynne sticks to the facts.  Of course, there's cherry-picking here - Horwath arguably didn't vote against the budget, she voted against the continuance of the Party - but that's as much a problem of voters demanding sound-bite simplicity as it is partisans spinning their message.

What Wynne doesn't do is imply Horwath is weak, dumb, ignorant, etc.  It's not about Horwath, it's about Horwath's positions.

I think that's fair.  The point of a campaign is to kick the tires on policies and capacities for implementation, plus hints at consequences.  Wynne is simply articulating her perspective on where a Horwath government would take Ontario.

It's absolutely true that Ontarians are looking for a change.  Asked by Ipsos Reid if it was 'time for another party to take over' 72% of Ontarians asked yes.  Not asked by Ipsos Reid, so far as I know, was any question about dissatisfaction with the way our system represents individual voices and concerns, period.  

Personally, I think Ontarians are ready for more than just a different coat of paint on an old system.  I think the change we long for is more structural in nature.

By taking some ownership over her message (and as a result, moving away from the angry sound-bite rhetoric people get so worked up about) Wynne is demonstrating a different kind of leadership than we're used to.

She's being open, directly, transparently about what she thinks.

In a cynical, go-for-the-throat political war zone run by back-room operators who love to attack people from a distance, that takes balls.

Will this approach be enough to make a dent over the short span of an election?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Either way, though, this is the kind of leadership Ontarians want from all levels of government.

It won't happen all on its own, though.  If we want to empower our leaders to own their voices, as Wynne is doing, then it's time we start speaking up as well.

Get organized, get informed, get engaged - because when you do, you can make a difference.

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