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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 27 September 2013

I Don't Think So, Tim...

I have nothing but empathy for Hudak, but then I'm a sucker for earnestness.  His heart, or as he puts it, "his gut" is in the right place.  He's angry with a tinge of desperation - he wants us to feel the same way.  The way he views Ontario isn't that different from how he must feel about his place as boss of his Party - it can all go very wrong in spectacular fashion but if everyone just stays focused on the short-term win, well, we can worry about what next later.

But that's the problem.  We have all seen what the Hudak filter looks like in practice; because he goes with his gut, his reactive instinct, he doesn't see how the pieces all fit together.  I've no doubt that he feels he does, but really, he's deluding himself.  

What Hudak describes as "knowing how the pieces fit together" is actually a process more akin to a "smell test".  That which makes him feel uneasy goes into one column; that which makes him feel a sense of satisfaction for wrongs righted or bad guys punished goes in the plus column.  The really publicly unpalatable pieces will be discarded; the "how it fits together" narrative will be confabulated (or spun, as they say in politics) later.

He's not looking at the big picture; he's putting his blinders on.  

Criminals, bad - must be punished.  No time for addressing the root causes of poverty, disenfranchisement or mental illness, gotta stay focused on the economy.  

Unions, bad - get rid of 'em.  Don't distract him with the facts about how financially-focused employers prefer disposable cheap labour and ready-to-wear solutions over investing in talent and innovation; that's not part of his picture.

Students, lazy - if they don't perform well as per standardized testing, sucks to be them - get a job on an assembly line.  It doesn't matter if people like Albert Einstein suck at math or Jake Barnett was written off by the standardized education system as a lost cause - it's not Hudak's job to commit sociology.

Unemployed people, lazy or hopeless - there are two categories of people; those who can work and those who can't.  Social determinants of marginalization like absentee parents, mental illness, trauma, mal-nutrition, postal-code bias and other forms of discrimination ranging from racism to sexism and homophobia, but also ageism and the bias against creativity and mental illness are all just excuses.  

See a pattern emerging?

This is Hudak's paradoxical problem; the cognitive processes of "believing in your gut" and "knowing how it all fits together" are like push and pull; they use different mental muscles and are designed to achieve different things.  Instinct is reactive - it allows to you respond to what's directly in front of you, period.  That's like elbowing the player next to you to get to the puck.  "Knowing how it all fits together" is about knowing the terrain and proactivley determining where the puck will be next and getting there first.

With this in mind, picture Hudak in the driver's seat; he's going to get from A (Ontario on the brink of collapse thanks to everyone not him) to B (First-class Ontario where everyone works and thinks in the same manner as he does) come hell or high water and do so quickly, permitting no distractions.  The Premier of Ontario, however, is just one driver on the road out of many.  

To see how this style of governance would play out in practice, look at any downtown Toronto intersection at rush hour; cars blocking intersections because they raced lights, pedestrians fearing to cross the road because frustrated drivers have stopped paying attention, gridlock and accidents.

“While likability is a bonus, it’s more important to be respected.”

Um, no.  What's really important is to be trusted.  The only way to earn trust is to demonstrate it yourself.

Contrast Hudak's singular, tough-guy approach with how Ontario's Minister of Consumer Services Tracy MacCharles' process for upgrading the Ontario Condominium Act.   MacCharles rightly assumed she didn't know how all the pieces fit together, nor did she expect all the variables to magically land in her lap.  Instead of positioning herself as the filter, she instead took on the role of stone in the soup.  The results were collaborative, representative, policy-smart and politically difficult to challenge.

That's what figuring out how the pieces fit together looks like.

I would offer Hudak suggestions on how to go from being a functionally-fixed boss who discourages input to a leader that empowers people, but part of his profile is that he's not particularly good at taking advice.  Instead, he'd rather blame his losses on someone else.

To his credit, he is doing exactly what the public is demanding of politicians these days - he's putting his real self out there.  For that, he's to be commended.  It just so happens that what he has to offer isn't what the majority of Ontarians are interested in buying right now.

Call it the political free market in action.

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