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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 18 January 2013

Mike Del Grande and A Lesson For Liberals

"Believe it or not I listen to what the lefties have to say."

- outgoing Budget Chief Mike Del Grande

I have no doubt that Del Grande did listen to them lefties, in the sense that he put himself in a place where their voices were picked up by his ear drums.

The fact that he refers to them by the stigmatic brand "lefties" suggests that while he might have listened, he didn't take those voices seriously. 

Del Grande can't be individually blamed for this oversight - we all live in glass houses when it comes to active listening. The average person will listen to conflicting positions strictly to develop counter arguments, instead of seeking clarity.

Rob Ford did the same thing. Stephen Harper does the same thing. Tim Hudak has never demonstrated the ability to actively listen.

The constituencies each of these leaders represent are fractured - a direct result of the divide-and-conquer approach they take to their politics. Their primary goal is to win, individually, meaning they automatically see other viewpoints as threats to success instead of opportunities for improvement.

When it becomes about winning, not achieving, you're lost.  Which, of course, is a big part of how we've gotten into our big social/democratic/fiscal mess in the first place.

Something for the Ontario and Federal Liberal Parties to think about as they pick their new leaders:

What do Liberals stand for? Partisan success and imposition of interest or active listening and shared solutions for all people, wherever they rest on the political spectrum?

Questions worth considering if we want to keep moving forward

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Occupational Mental Health: The Conscious Revolution Begins

Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace will be the next big breakthrough in improving quality of life and productivity in Canada.  It'll result in a more robust, productive and creative workforce, too.  The Conscious Revolution is the new Industrial Revolution.  The way we do business and organize our days is about to undergo a major overhaul, which will make some uncomfortable in the short term.  In the long term, though, we're all going to be better off.  We'll all get that much closer to realizing our personal maximum potentials.
My favourite part?  We're creating something new.  Canada can reclaim its title as the little country that makes things possible.
We just have to have faith - in what others can achieve when appropriately accommodated, and of what we can do when we work together.

Why Transparency Matters

Because ultimately, opacity is inefficient.  It breeds complacenes and laziness.  If you want to keep your edge sharp, you gotta run against it every now and then.

An insulated boardroom is an ineffective boardroom

By Lucy P. Marcus
January 15, 2013
“The level of ignorance seems staggering to the point of incredulity. Not only were you ignorant of what was going on, but you were out of your depth.”
Last week senior executives of UBS testified before a British parliamentary panel about their part in the Libor-rigging scandal. What they said sent a discouraging signal that they, and others in the banking sector, are still operating as if they are out of touch and tone-deaf in a sound-proof room.
U.S. and British authorities have implicated UBS, Citibank, Deutsche Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland, among others, in fixing the Libor rate over several years. UK lawmakers, responding to a public outcry, set up the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards to look into the UK banking sector’s professional standards and culture; discover lessons to be learned about corporate governance, transparency and conflicts of interest; and clarify the implications for regulation and government policy.
Andrea Orcel, chief executive officer of UBS’s investment bank, told the committee that “the whole executive board and board are very focused at recovering the honor and the standing that the organization had in the past.” But that’s still putting the emphasis and focus on the wrong thing. What these institutions need to be thinking about is rebuilding trust and stability. Using phrases like “recovering the honor” sends the message that they are focused on themselves and not on the effect their actions have on those around them – their clients, the employees and the global financial system.
The global financial system has depended on “trust me” and “we’re the experts,” and an implication that the whole thing is too complicated for people outside the upper echelons of the financial services industry to understand. But now, with the Libor-rigging scandal, with JPMorgan’s London Whale and with the perceived collapse of the banking system and bank bailouts, the financial services industry has broken that trust. It has become clear that a lot of the people in the industry, – indeed, a lot of people sitting around the industry’s board tables ‑ don’t understand what is happening there, either.
It is time for financial executives to think about the changes they can make to earn back people’s trust and demonstrate that they are trustworthy and can bring stability back. A blueprint would look something like this:
Action: Enough talk. There have been plenty of mea culpas, including in last week’s PCBS hearing, and lots of talk about what the financial services industry should do and what it needs to do. UBS’s Orcel talked about the need to “reform the governance, incentive structure and the overall supervisory approach right across the global financial industry.” People have lost trust, and no one is going to believe it until they do it. The focus is now on results.
Governance: Bank boards and senior management need more people who understand what the banks are doing, understand what they need to be doing, are unafraid to ask hard questions and are able to take swift, strong action. Barclays has a new chairman and a new chief executive, and they have set out clear ideas about re-examining what happens around the board table. They are saying all the right things, but they’ll have to demonstrate that they can bring about real change.
Transparency: If banks are taking action and making changes, people need to see it happening. JPMorgan’s board voted this week to make public an internal review on the failures that led to the loss of more than $6.2 billion. That is a step in the right direction. Any time there is a question of openness, the default answer has to be “yes.”
Accountability and performance: It is earnings week for some of the biggest financial services firms. It’s being reported that Barclays and Deutsche Bank will cut investment banker pay up to 20 percent. Pay packages and bonuses need to reflect the down times as well as up. If they do not, people will know it is business as usual. Also, it was reported this week that Goldman Sachs toyed with the idea of delaying UK bonuses to take advantage of a fall in tax rates but decided against it. Even considering such a move rekindles mistrust and the feeling that banks are simply not getting the public mood.
Lastly, the public has a part to play in all this. It was taxpayer money that bailed out a number of these institutions around the world. We cannot be passive and hope that others will sort this out for us. We all need to be speaking up on this issue, asking the questions of the institutions that we have bailed out and holding lawmakers to account to ensure they continue to monitor the financial services industry.
People did trust the financial services sector, but it broke that trust, several times over, and it is going to be a long road back. The industry will need to prove it is willing to be action-oriented and bring about real change, have oversight that counts and be transparent and accountable. Most of all, they have to know that people are watching, and that the attention is not going away.

The Choices of Mayor Ford

The NRA Pulls a Vic Toews

Monday 14 January 2013

The Party That Listens

Now that the delegates have been selected, there is much chatter about how the Ontario Liberal campaign teams will narrow their scope to just those folk with the ability to cast ballots at the Convention.  It's traditional wisdom, this; when winning is the objective, you put your blinders on to shut out everything that doesn't lie on the path to victory.  If some obstacles get swept out of the way in the process, they can be dealt with after the win.  As the platform shrinks, you expect campaign teams to target delegates with an increasingly laser-like focus, tuning out everyone else.  It's in this climate of steadily rising excitement and tension that deals get made and occasionally, sparks fly.

Originally designed to help break political deadlock, the delegated process itself is an exclusionary one.  To be able to participate, Party Members must get their name on the delegate ballot, win support among their Association peers and then afford the price of admission.  Even then, successful delegates face transportation and time-associated cost challenges.  In the days of yore, those privileged few delegates, ex-officios and campaign teams who made it to the Leadership Convention would congregate behind the curtain and privately decide the fate of the Party.  As the process happened out of the spotlight of broader Party scrutiny, it could  well have involved the sort of horse-trading (of potential cabinet positions, for instance) that gives leadership contests a bad name.

The Party itself has changed much since the days of George Brown, just as media has evolved since he founded the Toronto Globe.  Funny enough, those changes have moved in the exact opposite direction of the delegate process, steadily leaning towards increased transparency and broader participation.  With cell-phone cameras and social media, every interaction unfolds in real-time.  The back-rooms have turned into fish bowls. 

Whatever decisions get made or actions get taken over the campaign or on the convention floor, it literally takes seconds for the story, complete with pictures, to go viral - not only to delegates or Party members, but to everyone plugged in to the Internet.  The curtain is rapidly being pulled back on politics-as-usual, forcing the players to dance as if everyone is watching.  
What's even more fascinating - Ontario Liberals want to engage each other in an open way.  Yesterday, Liberals were proudly tweeting photos of their ballots, letting the world know who they were voting for and why.  Instead of one camp hoarding result numbers from another, the quickest place to get updated figures was on Twitter.  Supporters of one candidate were congratulating supporters of another on winning a delegate spot.  A week back when a media outlet tried to generate a story out of "secret meetings" happening between candidates (often in public restaurants), the candidates turned it into a meme and posted pictures of themselves together online. 
From the grassroots up, Liberals are putting themselves out there on social media feeds, on blogs and most importantly in their communities.  This trend towards collaborative transparency doesn't stop with Party members, though - we're connecting with family, friends and complete strangers to let them know why we believe liberal values matter and to share our ideas on how to keep Ontario working. 
Sure, there's a danger in being so open - someone might publicly criticize one of your ideas, or even you for sharing them.  It's an uncomfortable risk, perhaps, but one Liberals are comfortable in taking.  If you want people to trust you with their visions for the future, you have to be willing to share yours with them.  Then, you have to prove your sincerity by straying away from talking points and responding to them as directly as possible, something that's only possible when you give everyone the respect they deserve.
It's a tough challenge, but being a Liberal has never been about taking the easy path.  After all, moving forward together means not leaving anyone behind.
The six leadership candidates recognize that this process isn't about them - it's about us.  All of us.  This is why they will defy political gravity and spend the rest of the campaign connecting with Ontarians from every corner of the province, from all walks of life.   The end goal for each of these candidates and the teams that support them isn't an individual win but rather a strong, sustainable Ontario.  Whoever becomes the next Premier, we will continue to work together, to listen, to build and to have some fun along the journey.
That way, everyone wins.  


Sunday 13 January 2013

When Social Media Meets Magna Carta

Lincoln Never Quits (Roger Knapp)

Love this story.  If you believe in something truly, then quitting is not an option.  And as we know, there's only one way forward.

Abraham Lincoln Didn't Quit

Probably the greatest example of persistence is Abraham Lincoln. If you want to learn about somebody who didn't quit, look no further.

Born into poverty, Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout his life. He lost eight elections, twice failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown.

He could have quit many times - but he didn't and because he didn't quit, he became one of the greatest presidents in the history of our country.

Lincoln was a champion and he never gave up. Here is a sketch of Lincoln's road to the White House:
  • 1816 His family was forced out of their home. He had to work to support them.
  • 1818 His mother died.
  • 1831 Failed in business.
  • 1832 Ran for state legislature - lost.
  • l832 Also lost his job - wanted to go to law school but couldn't get in.
  • 1833 Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
  • 1834 Ran for state legislature again - won.
  • 1835 Was engaged to be married, sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
  • 1836 Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
  • 1838 Sought to become speaker of the state legislature - defeated.
  • 1840 Sought to become elector - defeated.
  • 1843 Ran for Congress - lost.
  • 1846 Ran for Congress again - this time he won - went to Washington and did a good job.
  • 1848 Ran for re-election to Congress - lost.
  • 1849 Sought the job of land officer in his home state - rejected.
  • 1854 Ran for Senate of the United States - lost.
  • 1856 Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party's national convention - get less than 100 votes.
  • 1858 Ran for U.S. Senate again - again he lost.
  • 1860 Elected president of the United States.