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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.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

A Little Opposition Is A Healthy Thing

I know a story that kinda goes like this, but with a different ending.  

It was the 2003 election, one the Tories were expected to win.  The Liberal Leader, Dalton McGuinty, was wearing the "still not up to the job" brand after a rocky start to his leadership.  McGuinty's ability to gain traction in rural Ontario was far from certain - the Liberals were largely considered to be an urban-centric Party.  

You'd think his core team would have been nervous nellies, knowing full well this was their Leader's last kick at the can.  By rights, they should have felt a compulsion to stamp out any internal opposition especially from a mere candidate so as not to look weak to the masses.

McGuinty did have a candidate that took issue with a Party position and did so publicly.  Like Brister, this candidate got some stern advice from the Party.  Where the story differs, however, is that the Liberal candidate was never told he had to recant or be dropped.

He went on to handily win the riding of Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry and held it until he retired in 2011.  Even now in his political retirement, people still turn to him as their representative.

That candidate, of course, was Jim Brownell.  

Brownell went on to challenge Party wisdom again and again over the years.  With time and experience McGuinty, his Ministers and the OLP on the whole learned that when Jim had an opinion it was worth listening to; he had a fair bit of wisdom of his own to share.

The collaboration of Jim Brownell and the Ontario Liberal Party went on to do many great things, including the Eastern Ontario Economic Development Fund, closure on Cornwall's Project Truth scandal, new hospitals, downtown loan forgiveness and tourist promotion.  Brownell campaigned on his ability to put Eastern Ontario back on the map - he did, to the OLP's benefit.

By learning to listen to and show respect for a rural candidate, the McGuinty Liberals were demonstrating their commitment to learning from and listening to rural Ontario.  It was something the good folk of SD&G certainly took notice of.

More than being a fine Parliamentarian and a partisan asset, though, Jim brought a lineage of rural courtesy and comradeship with him to Queen's Park.  He was well-respected by Members of all Parties and absolutely adored by staff.  His genuine warmth and compassion led to his becoming an unofficial morale officer for the OLP which again benefited.

Never once did Jim ever support something he didn't believe in.  Never once did he compromise his beliefs.  Instead, he learned to work with the Party as the Party learned to work with him.  Which is how government is supposed to work.

All of this says a lot about Jim.  It says a lot about McGuinty and the people he surrounded himself with, too.

Just as the dismissal of Dave Brister has something to say about Tim Hudak and his team.

Could Dave Brister have become Tim Hudak's version of Jim Brownell, gaining trust externally, building morale internally and helping to usher in more than a decade of Party wins?

I guess we'll never know, will we?  

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