You may have seen the Abacus poll making the rounds, asking about traits of Canada's three main political leaders.
Mr. Harper is seen as a solid choice when itcomes to the some key attributes that people look for when it comes to leadership, especially financial andmanagement skills.
Stephen Harper is a political machine; he messages like it's nobody's business. He knows how to hit, he keeps his caucus (and government, and increasingly non-government) locked in a steely fist. Harper clearly loves being the boss.
But does that make him a leader?
For Mr. Mulcair the result indicate that people tend to see him as compassionate and competent, themesthat he has been at pains to draw out since becoming leader of the NDP.
He's a well-meaning guy, that Mulcair. He'd lend you money if you needed it. But what would he do to help you earn it?
For Justin Trudeau, the results underscore the popular chord he has struck, and many Canadians sense hewould be able to empathize with them and be enjoyable company.
The flowing locks. The charm. He knows how to make whoever is in his gravitational pull swoon, and that's a great many Canadians. But is that leadership?
Harper's a CEO kind of guy - he tells people what to do and clearly is comfortable sacrificing them for what he sees as the corporation's gain (which tends to be a mix of the Party and his ideology for the country, but after all he is a politician).
Trudeau is nice to be around. He's a great, inspirational speaker, like a Canadian Tony Robbins. But making people hopeful about hard work isn't the same thing as motivating them to work hard.
Mulcair? He's smart, he's focused, he's compassionate, but what does he want? It never feels like he wants to lead - he wants to be the guy who holds the leader accountable. What would he do if all the pressures that are now laid at Stephen Harper's feet were to settle upon his shoulders?
The questions asked here are populist ones - this is the kind of stuff people make their minds up over. But are these the leadership traits we're looking for?
Leaders don't tell people not to worry, they've got it covered, leave it to them.
Leaders don't pontificate on the virtues of humanism.
Leaders don't give you a fish because you are hungry; they teach you to fish so that you may never go hungry.
A couple alternate questions to consider:
- Which leader do you feel would best prepare you to negotiate contracts yourself?
- Which leader would empower you to speak in your neighbourhood - or empower your neighbourhood to speak up together?
- Which leader would you trust to lead your family to survival in the wilderness?
- Which leader do you feel has the best grasp on what the next ten, twenty years will look like?
- Which leader would you follow into battle?
- Which leader inspires you to act, to engage, to be part of the solution rather than a consumer?
I would argue none of them. There are no Abe Lincolns, no Winston Churchill's on our political landscape, which is unfortunate, because that's the kind of leadership we desperately need right now.
There's a big difference between getting the leadership we need vs the leadership we want. It's never been much of an issue in Canada; we've had strong economic fundamentals, we've not been invaded since the War of 1812, we've never really suffered. We have the privilege of looking for the fun stuff from our leaders and weaning ourselves off of engagement, because we've been able to be comfortable.
Times are changing, though - the Canada our children will inherit is going to look pretty different than the one our parents left for us.
We're not going to get it this time out, but we're going to need some real leadership soon. The question is, will we recognize this in time?