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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.

Friday 16 August 2013

Union on the Right: The Hudak Paradox

It's an interesting, if not surprising, predicament that Tim Hudak has gotten himself and his Party into - and one, I think, that's representative of the broader malaise we're witnessing in politics.  After all, it's the same predicament that Sam Hammond has gotten himself and ETFO into.  

Hudak has taken a strong stand against unions.  In a White Paper (not, as we are told, to be confused with an actual policy commitment) penned largely by maverick Randy Hillier, the Hudak PCs have suggested collective bargaining is harmful to the interests of individuals.  The paper promotes the notion of union leaders being held more accountable to union members.  One, solid voice impedes flexibility and innovation, the argument goes - high performers are impeded by the need to tow the Party line.

Seems to make sense to Randy Hillier and Frank Klees - after all, that's the exact same approach they're demanding for Hudak's Progressive Conservatives.  They are suggesting it is healthy for the Party to have Hudak held to account by Party members at any occasion.  To them, the likes of Jim Wilson are sending the wrong message to those members by suggesting it's damaging to undermine the leader and cause internal friction when there's an election looming on the horizon.

As I have argued before, Political Parties are exactly like unions - if you want to run for political office, you pretty much need to be a Party candidate if you have any hope of winning.  When you do get the job, though, you are beholden to Party messages, Party financial commitments and the like.  It's a trade-off; you don't get in if you're not part of a Party but if you do get in, and your Party is successful, you have a better chance of gaining position for yourself and results for your constituency, building your own brand.

As Hudak has been a bannerman for the PC Union since his 20s, this is something he should understand pretty well.  It's his association with the Progressive Conservatives that has provided him with taxpayer-funded employment for all these years; it was that brand that gave him a shot at being Premier.  None of this would have been possible had he been an Independent.

So, here's Hudak's dilemma - he is telling Ontario that unions are bad, they impede creativity and stifle talent and prop up failures.  Yet when it comes to his Party and demands by a disgruntled few to ditch an unsuccessful leader, Hudak and his loyalists are advocating for the need to hold the line, support the Leader, show a unified front to the world lest their collective interests fall off the table.

Politics being the art of cognitive dissonance made policy, it's absolutely possible for Hudak to furl his brow and suggest that these are completely separate beasts.  But that still leaves him the challenge of calming the sea of troubles bubbling within his Party and securing enough support in urban Ontario to win a majority government.  

Not that the Leader of the Opposition has a habit of following advice, but for what it's worth, here are my two cents:

- Stop acting like Leader of the Opposition.  Quit breaking the world down into "with me" and "against me" columns and start doing the hard job of bringing people together

- Don't let go of what you believe in - but remember, you aspire to lead everyone. That means your vision needs to be bigger than your personal aspirations 

- Start seeing your opponents as opportunities, not enemies.  Just for fun, start with Sam Hammond; sit him down and pick his brain, challenge him to think outside of his box and come up with solutions that work for both sides of the equation and, ultimately, best serve students

- Get creative.  The world isn't blue-and-red, but rather, the overlay of both

Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  The swinging pendulum of partisan politics has lead more to a fractured society than to aggregated wins.  The traditional Hudak Approach hasn't done much in his favour, either.

If he really wants to win, it's time for Hudak to think different - maybe even walk a mile in the shoes of his opponents and figure out why it is they support the positions they do.

After all, leadership isn't about holding ground; it's about moving forward.

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