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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.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Ownership: Kathleen Wynne is a Leader with Balls

Here's Kathleen Wynne, using her own voice in an ad to take on the NDP.  While Leaders do this all the time when they know most people aren't paying attention - in Question Period, for instance, or during fundraiser speeches - how often is it we have a critical ad voiced by a Party's leader?

Not often.  Too often, our leaders want to steer clear of attaching their name to anything that takes a direct, repeatable poke at opposition.  

It's a known fact that people find attack ads distasteful, but that they are effective in negatively branding an opponent.  So, we get over-the-top ads like a mockery of Jean Chretien's facial paralysis, puffins pooping on Stephane Dion and Justin Trudeau "in over his head."

It's pretty inflamatory stuff.  Could you imagine any of these ads being made if they had to be voiced by the actual leader?  Nope.  Attack ads work in undermining opponents, but we find them distasteful coming from our statesmen and women.  

Which is why leaders steer clear.  Which is also why attack ads so frequently scrape the bottom of the barrel.

In her ad, Wynne sticks to the facts.  Of course, there's cherry-picking here - Horwath arguably didn't vote against the budget, she voted against the continuance of the Party - but that's as much a problem of voters demanding sound-bite simplicity as it is partisans spinning their message.

What Wynne doesn't do is imply Horwath is weak, dumb, ignorant, etc.  It's not about Horwath, it's about Horwath's positions.

I think that's fair.  The point of a campaign is to kick the tires on policies and capacities for implementation, plus hints at consequences.  Wynne is simply articulating her perspective on where a Horwath government would take Ontario.

It's absolutely true that Ontarians are looking for a change.  Asked by Ipsos Reid if it was 'time for another party to take over' 72% of Ontarians asked yes.  Not asked by Ipsos Reid, so far as I know, was any question about dissatisfaction with the way our system represents individual voices and concerns, period.  

Personally, I think Ontarians are ready for more than just a different coat of paint on an old system.  I think the change we long for is more structural in nature.

By taking some ownership over her message (and as a result, moving away from the angry sound-bite rhetoric people get so worked up about) Wynne is demonstrating a different kind of leadership than we're used to.

She's being open, directly, transparently about what she thinks.

In a cynical, go-for-the-throat political war zone run by back-room operators who love to attack people from a distance, that takes balls.

Will this approach be enough to make a dent over the short span of an election?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Either way, though, this is the kind of leadership Ontarians want from all levels of government.

It won't happen all on its own, though.  If we want to empower our leaders to own their voices, as Wynne is doing, then it's time we start speaking up as well.

Get organized, get informed, get engaged - because when you do, you can make a difference.

Friday 9 May 2014

Leadership, Aggregates and the Open Community

Fordian Slip - To Err is Human

Ford is behind the wheel and hammered.  One constituent he calls that night recalls Ford slurring his words.

Did this stand out for anyone else?

Ford, wasted, still doing what he thinks it is his job to do?

I have no respect for Ford - he's a bully, a thug, a racist, a homophobe and not, I think it's fair to say, much of a good family man.

At the same time, I honestly think he's trying to do what he thinks is right.  Part of him recognizes he's in way over his head, but he was raised to fight, never to back down.

The self-regulation issues, the inability to attune to details and the father complex speak to issues that could have and should have been addressed.  Who knows what the Mayor may have turned out like, given proper intervention in earlier years.

Like him or not, there's a lot to be learned from Rob Ford.

The Ford Gravy Train Wreck

I don't even want to clip quotes.

Ford's friends, here.

Ford's quotes, here.

Yet he still stands a chance of winning again.


Tim Hudak: The Angry Man with a Fanciful Plan

No, he's promising to burn the whole thing down.

You know what promotes job creation?  Stability.  Reliable services.  Solid infrastructure.  That kind of thing.  

Hudak's planning to fire 100,000 Public Service employees.  Which ones?  When will the decision be made, and based on what?

The entire Ontario Public Service will be walking on eggshells, waiting to find out.  Unions will be gunning fro Hudak, trying to defend their members.

Picture strikes - lots of them.  Work-to-rule a-plenty.  With that, we'll see service disruption, delayed projects and countless important projects put on hold.  

This makes for a rather unstable environment.  What's worse, Hudak will be doing to Ontario's public service what Harper is doing to the Canadian Public Service - threatening them, bullying them and making it impossible for them to do their work in an evidence-based way.

Employers aren't going to rush in to embrace Hudak's slashed tax rates - it's in their best interest to plan long-term.  Smart companies will figure Hudak won't last four years and, if he does, the province might not.  They'll stay clear away.

Meanwhile, the covered health-care costs of the OPS sores even higher (count on a ton more anxiety and depression med prescriptions) what will Hudak do, start cutting back on health benefits?

That won't work.  Meanwhile, there's not just going to be two Parties and the Ontario Families Coalition gunning for him - every "special interest" that pays attention to facts that Hudak would rather ignore (including the Canadian Mental Health Commission) will be on his case.  That's before raising unions and regional communities that are going to get pretty mad pretty quickly, too.

What's Hudak going to do when he simply tossing insults across the aisle isn't enough to stop his mounting opposition?

Or when services grind to a halt, employers get even more skittish about hiring and people start getting more and more anxious about their future?

I don't think so, Tim.

Hudak's plan is, unfortunately, a reflection of how he thinks - in sound-bites, not strategy.  He delivers a great alliterative punch line, but that's not leadership.

It's a long campaign yet, but it's pretty clear Ontarians are going to see more of what they've seen before - anger, petulance and a refusal to listen.  

Having watched Toronto go through that with Rob Ford, Ontario will realize it'll only have itself to blame for a Hudak government.

It's about time someone else took the till of the PCs.

Lucky for Hudak, there's always talk radio.  

Meme for the Times - Carly Rae Jepsen/Herman Melville Mashup

literature quote 10

Someone's got your number, baby!

Uniting Together Against a Common Foe

It's political wisdom that people need a kick in the ass to get engaged.  Having a common, threatening foe helps - generally, it's the opposition.  You make them the black hat, portray yourself as the white hat and fight to win.

As I have pointed out, repeatedly, this requires the dehumanization of your foe and permits less-than-ethical tactics.  Invariably, the more competitive you become, the more people fit into the enemy category and you become what you once fought against.

The only way to get past this is to think bigger, in the way we have since the dawn of history.  

The thing that we fear the most, that we feel helpless against is the unknown future and what crises lie in the darkness around us.  The only way to overcome this is by uniting together and sparking a light.

All metaphors aside, if progressives really want to prends le parole, this is the message they should be focusing on.

Build Community: A Guide to Surviving Crises

Indeed it's not.  An interest in resiliency and preparedness is taking root all over the place.

Indeed it's not.  An interest in resiliency and preparedness is taking root all over the place.

That, plus Open Data and Open Government.

Not to mention Mental Health and the workplace.

All facilitated by an empowered social entrepreneur community more committed to what they contribute to than what they get in return.

Who'd a thunk these different threads would all come together?

Civic startups and others in the open-data space have shown that they care an incredible resource when it comes to creating tools that citizens and government can use to be better prepared for crisis.  Open data has made mobile apps possible that identify the location of hundreds of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) when someone nearby is in need of a lifesaving procedure.  Another app maps out all the fire hydrants in Boston, so volunteers can dig them out after a snowstorm.

But we can do more.

We sure can!  In fact, we're doing it already - through initiatives like HackGoesOn and countless others; through civic engagement groups like Why Should I Care and through online platforms like... well, you'll just have to see.

Could all of this have been predicted?  It was.

Fortune Favours the Bold

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How Stephen Harper is Making Canada Sick

The strength and quality of Canada's governance is diminishing under Stephen Harper's iron-fisted rule.

Any challengers to his agenda are ignored, attacked or, where possible, fired.

Evidence that demonstrates there may be a problem with the way he governs is dismissed, buried or where possible, starved out of existence.

This presents a tough challenge for bureaucrats whose job isn't to serve Harper's partisan ideology, but the well-being of Canada.  When they have facts that prove Harper's policies are detrimental to our national interests, it's their job to raise concerns with the government.  

When that government, in turn, bullies the civil service into doing as they're told, the combination of stresses (doing what you know to be wrong, micro-managed to death by ideologues with no respect for the facts) takes a toll on individual health.  And through aggregate, collective health.

Which is why Canada's bureaucracy is growing sick, too.  They're not alone, though - tough-minded, top-down managers are fostering the same kind of illness across the board.  

There's consequence to this laissez-faire approach.

Here's the thing, though; when you have an individual who refuses to listen to advice, makes decisions they should know to be unsound and gets mad at those who challenge their destructive behaviour - behaviour like Stephen Harper's - well, there's a precedent for that, too.

Not long ago, people had trouble following me when I connected labour reform to mental health.  Now that it's a legitimate thing, they're not seeing how occupational mental health connect to Open Government.

Give it time, folks - you will.

UPDATE: Need any further proof that our PM is functionally fixed and likely addicted to power - to the detriment of us all?  Voila.  What's needed at this stage of the game is an intervention.

Occupational Mental Health for an Open, Engaged Society UPDATE

Mental health?  Check.

Occupational mental health?  Yeppers.

Public Service Transformation?  Of course - that's what Open Government is about.

This digital age thing - have something to do with online platforms and aggregates?  

The biggest hurdles to be overcome at this point are functionally-fixed partisans and disengaged citizens.

I knew we would.


Open Data, emergency prep done locally and transparently - which kinds involves community and confidence building?  Know what else mentally fit, engaged and engaging communities can do?

I really wish more people could see the emerging picture the way I do.  It's pretty.

Winning vs. Accomplishing in Politics

It's counter-intuitive, I know, in a competitive industry like politics.  Support something your opponents can claim as a win?  Terrible idea.  Allow an opponent to take credit for your idea and benefit from the praise?  How self-destructive is that?

Politics is about winning and winning is about beating your opponents, full stop.  As the saying goes, you can accomplish great things in politics, but only when you're in power.  It's better to stand against something you believe in if it means denying your opponents a victory; after all, you can just implement the same policy when you're in power and get the credit for it.

Even if that means standing in the way of good policy for your constituents.

If your job is to represent and promote the best interests of constituents, though, isn't it counter-intuitive to stand in the way of what's going to improve their lives?

Such is the cognitive dissonance of Party Politics; winning politically on the macro level now trumps individual responsibility on the elected official level.  The losers in this bid to win, sadly, are the people.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Some words of advice I once received from what you may consider a surprising source - "our job is to serve the client's interest.  Sometimes that means helping your enemy bet a win.  Just remember who your priority is."

Wise words, those, ones I've taken to heart.  They came from Leslie Noble.

Leslie, in addition to being one of Tim Hudak's advisers, is a very successful government relations consultant.  Clients love her because she's good at pushing their issues forward.  She doesn't do it by attacking and bullying her targeted politicians, as some lobbyists do - instead, she identifies what a given audience's priorities are and designs solutions that are made up of little wins for everyone across the board.

Granted, she's not running for office - but why would she need to?  She accomplishes her objectives - scores wins for her clients, if you will - perfectly well from the outside.

You'd be surprised (or maybe not so much nowadays) how much our political agenda is shaped by people who aren't in political office.  They have identified the end-goals of politicians and Parties - to win - and have learned how to nudge them in certain directions with the trade off being of helping them win.

Is it diabolical?  No - it's strategic.  It also happens to be short-sighted.

Winning, you see, implies an end-game; a zero-sum situation where one party walks away the winner and the other is the loser.  This doesn't happen in politics, because there's always another election, always an opposition (unless you have a one-party system, which I don't think anyone is in favour of).  

The more combative you are this time around, the more combative they are going to be next time around, leading to an escalation not of evidence-based debate, but heated rhetoric and personal attacks.  
Kind of like we're seeing now.  

What happens in this scenario, of course, is the system loses - citizens get tired of the choices available to them, realize just how much the system is being gamed and tune out.  Eventually, they will fight back.

It's the same thing with those private, vested interests manipulating the politicians to deliver individual wins that put money in their pockets - by narrowing policy focus to a thin wedge of issues and disregarding/demonizing all others, imbalances occur.  

Take the Oil Industry, for example.  They're wealthy, influential and have a very narrow mandate - to make more money by extracting and selling more oil.  What happens if oil extraction is environmentally damaging?  Not their issue - stamp it out.  What happens if the available oil sources dry up or are impossible to extract?  Not something they want to consider - bury the issue.  

And what is policy designed to support the oil industry exclusively results in a dearth of social capacity for anything else, like advanced manufacturing, clean/green energy tech, so on and so forth?  If oil's your thing, you don't care - like playing the stock market, you maximize your winnings and then cash out.  What happens after is someone else's problem.

But balancing problems, weighing consequences and devising forward-thinking policy is the job of our politicians.  When they're focused on power grabs and beholden to wealth-generating industries, you can see how cracks start to appear in the system.

Kinda like we have right now.

So, where do we go from here?  Is it possible to disrupt the influence of special interest groups like Oil on Political Parties?  Can we disrupt the influence Partisan interests has on narrowing the policy discussion?

We certainly can.  In fact, it's already happening.  

The reason we don't have big names or nascent interest groups crying out for public attention around things like #OpenGov and #OpenData is because they aren't interested in winning - just accomplishing.

We're going to hit a tipping point in the very near future where smart, self-interested people are going to see the massive opportunities for wealth and power that are available through the Open Movement.  

That's when you'll start hearing about what's already begun.  When the selfish start promoting altruistic, informed and lateral participation, that's when we all win.

Demand Not of Your Country But What You're Willing to Invest Yourself

Couldn't have said it any better myself.

So - whose ready for an adventure?  We can't get there without you.

Assisted Suicide And Pandora’s Box

... and while revisiting death and life at one end of the spectrum, it pays to consider what that means for the back-end of the spectrum.

Of course, if we make the bit in the middle work well, the ends will evolve to reflect this, no?

It always starts in the centre.

Assisted Suicide And Pandora’s Box By Craig Carter Edwards – June 25, 2012

“All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”
- Gandalf, Lord of the Rings

CFN – B.C Supreme Justice Lynn Smith has ruled that assisted suicide is legal.  In her ruling, Smith argues existing provisions in the Criminal Code that make assisted suicide illegal are an infringement against an individual’s rights to life, liberty and security of person.  In her view, right to life seems to include right to death; liberty includes the ability to impose the ultimate limitation on oneself and security includes the ability to permanently protect oneself against pain.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m not in favour.
There are plenty of arguments being made around the morality of assisted suicide and the Pandora’s Box we’ve opened  when we see death as just another treatment option (and in today’s reality of unsustainable healthcare costs, a less expensive one at that).  Of course, the defense of assisted suicide goes beyond financial savings, spilling out onto compassionate grounds and the issue of civil liberties.  If people don’t want to keep suffering, or if their families don’t want to see them carry on in unending pain, shouldn’t they have the right to put an end to it all?
Let’s consider the issue from a different angle.  As the Hippocratic Oath demands that doctors do no harm, let’s think about what happens when preemptive death isn’t an option.  If assisted suicide isn’t on the table, what then?  When jumping the gun on death isn’t a way out, we’re faced with the reality of confronting illness and its impact on both the sick and their social circles.  Illness is more than just a personal, biological affliction; unless you’re a hermit, illness is a social cross that gets borne by everyone.  From first-hand experience, I can tell you that living with illness is a brutal business for all concerned – the afflicted individual, their family and their community.
My father-in-law died from complications after a long, painful battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a disease that slowly deteriorated his body and put unsustainable stress on his family.  When the father was at home, they never knew for how long it was for.  When he was in the hospital, they were never sure he would be coming home.  Despite all the uncertainty and the strains on their own lives, my wife, her sisters and their mom were always there for him, visiting him in hospital every day, making sure their father knew he still mattered.  Yes, there were days when the pain was too much, when they wished it would end.  It was on days like that my wife and her family were grateful for the support they received from neighbours, friends and family; cutting the lawn, occasionally fixing meals or just listening, but doing whatever they could to support the family so that they could, in turn, support their father.
The doctors never expected my father-in-law to last as long as he did, but then he was a strong man.  Much of that strength was drawn from those who supported him.  The stress that his family endured took such a toll that they still feel its effects acutely today, more than ten years after his death.  It should come as no surprise that we all donate annually to cancer research; we are committed to supporting the search for a cure to cancer so that, one day, no family will have to go through the same thing.
That, essentially, is the history of medicine.  There was a time when smallpox was a serious concern; now, after a global effort, it’s believed to be a thing of the past.  Families used to suffer the loss of loved ones to measles, mumps and rubella; all illnesses for which we now have a vaccine.  More broadly, we can look at physical conditions like blindness, limb loss, asthma or mental illness as challenges that have made life arduous but that collaboratively, we are finding answers to.  The Hippocratic Oath challenges doctors to find alternatives – not to end problems, but to create solutions.
There’s a Joss Whedon line (paraphrased from a Martin Luther King JR. quote) that comes to mind whenever I think about medicine and social services in general:
But what if no one is there to carry you?  Here’s another story:
A woman in her eighties is living in a senior’s home.  She has severe emphysema, a condition she developed after years of smoking.  She picked up the habit in her youth because advertising told her it was the cool thing to do.  As a result of the emphysema, this woman is now limited to a wheelchair – for her, the whole world has shrunk.  Everything from breathing, leaving her room, even eating has become a chore.  Her family doesn’t visit much – they would love to, surely, but they’re just so busy.  The boss only allows so much time off for family care, because he, too, has a bottom line to manage.
Recently, this woman was rushed to hospital, shrinking her world even further.  With everything a chore and nothing to live for, you can bet death is on this woman’s mind.  In fact, you could even say she is in a state of depression.  This lady’s kids worry about her from afar, hoping she gets better and confidently telling themselves she has the best possible care.  They tell themselves this while they’re taking a well-deserved vacation in the Europe.  Put the option of assisted suicide on the table for this woman, for her family – what position do you think they would take?  What has made this woman’s life unendurable – her illness, or the inattentiveness of her family?
Here’s another quote you might be familiar with – the stake.
Yet, we have developed treatment for leprosy, haven’t we?  We have developed things like prosthetic limbs, glasses, asthma pumps, chemotherapy.  There’s a great big push out there for a culture change in the way we understand mental health, including how our personal behaviours impact the state of mind of others.  None of this stuff has happened over night; it’s taken generations of collaborative effort, often on pieces of a bigger puzzle that will not be completed for generations, much less within a given contributor’s lifetime.  We might not cure cancer tomorrow, but if we give up on those who suffer from cancer today, we never will.
Call me stubborn, if you will – I’d take that as a compliment and attribute my stoicism to the good genes of my grandfather who survived the Holocaust.  My experience has demonstrated, time and again, that there is no gain – no progress – without pain.  If we’re not part of the problem, we have the chance to be part of the solution.   I believe in the value of individual sacrifice for the public good; be it donating blood, giving to a charity or not using your air conditioner excessively.  Giving back is a choice I have made; we all have to decide what to do with the time that is given us.
Putting assisted suicide on the table as a treatment option for illness is just one facet of an emerging public conversation about death.  Capital punishment is being revisited, too, partially in response to arecent, horrific murder.  All of this focus on death and endings will force us to reevaluate just how much and in which ways we value life.  The lid is off Pandora’s Box, indeed.  And what was it that was left inside that box?

Abortion: A Necessary Evil

Because it seems kinda relevant again, voila.

Or to sum it up in Bill Clinton's tidy phrase:

Abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare.

Abortion: A Necessary Evil By Craig Carter Edwards – July 6, 2012


CFN – When I chose euthanasia as last week’s topic, I knew that I couldn’t address the concept of choice at the end of the life spectrum without also addressing choice at the front end.  While abortion is one of those topics that makes for awkward dinner conversations, there’s obviously still an appetite for it, as evidenced by Conservative MP Stephen Woodsworth’s  somewhat disingenuous Private Member’s Bill addressing the issue.
Abortion is an emotional, polarizing issue; if you’re pro-life, it’s a matter of life and death.  If you’re pro-choice, you focus on a woman’s right to reproductive choice; it’s an individual freedom thing.  Within each of these positions, however, there are contradictions.  If a woman has a right to choose what happens to her body, should not a fetus have the right to choose what happens to its body?  If you feel, as Wordsworth does, that a fetus doesn’t deserve to be punished (aborted) for a crime it did not commit (conception), what of children who are born into lives of poverty?  At what stage do you declare that the by-product of a fusion of gamete cells becomes a living organism?  What were those cells the day before that declaration?
There’s a good reason why all but the most ideological politicians are loath to touch abortion as an issue.  If a woman has an obligation to carry any pregnancy through, what are society’s obligations to that woman, or to that child?  How do you tackle the use of abortion as a form of selective birth control?  Is there an obligation to teach our youth about the birds and the bees so that they can make informed choices – and does that obligation rest with parents or with society?  What about cases of rape, of mental illness, etc?  Is it hypocritical to be pro-life but pro-capital punishment, or pro-choice and anti-capital punishment?  While abortion might be a black-and-white issue for the pro-choice and pro-life partisans, for policy makers it’s a Pandora’s Box of complex legal ramifications that touch on fields ranging from justice to education to healthcare.
Faced with polarizing topics like abortion, it pays to step back and look at the content, context and consequences of the issue.  In this case, we could say the content would be life and the context would be choice.  But what informs the choice and how does that influence how we define life?  If you agree that abortion is an emotional issue that people tend to have default positions about, then emotionality itself is a good place to start.  That’s all well and good, but how do you deconstruct emotion?  If you believe in evolution and accept the principle of natural selection, then you probably accept the premise that all human traits, including emotions, have genetic value; that’s why they’ve been selected in the first place.  While we tend to think of broad genetic traits in terms of brain size and bipedalism or more nuanced traits such as hair or eye colour, how we react to (or rather, feel about) things can equally have genetic value.
Not convinced?  Consider this – why are kids afraid of monsters in the dark?  If you’re born in an urban setting and have never been exposed to nocturnal predators (human or otherwise), you really have no accumulated experience that tells you the dark is threatening.  Yet urban kids are still afraid of the dark.  There’s a clear genetic advantage to this emotional response that predates urban living; when you’re afraid, you’re body goes into fight-or-flight mode.  If something untoward came out of the dark at our pre-urban ancestors, this level of anxiety might have given the split-second advantage needed to escape and survive.  Acrophobia gives another example of a reactive response that triggers useful behaviour.  If you’ve ever experienced fear of heights, you might have felt an uncontrollable impulse to lie down or hang on to a supporting pole or railing; having an instinct to reduce your chance of falling by clinging to a stable surface makes obvious sense.  Both of these phobias have been selected over time for their genetic value.
Like it or not, this emotion-as-genetic-motivator model can be applied to any of our feelings; fear, hatred, even love correspond to neurochemical changes in our bodies that trigger reactive behaviours.  We eat because we feel hungry; if we didn’t feel hungry, we might waste away.  We have sex because we have sexual yearnings; without those feelings, we might not have sex and therefore, not reproduce.    Conditions like depression and anxiety throw this neurochemical balance out of whack, impacting our normal physical responses around things like sex and food.  The pharmaceutical industry has capitalized on this; everything from diet pills to anti-depressants are designed to alter our neurochemistry, repressing or enhancing an emotional state.
By now you’re probably asking – what does the genetics of emotion have to do with abortion?  Well, if you believe that our emotions exist because they serve a genetic purpose and you agree that abortion is an emotional issue, what are the odds that pro-choice and pro-life positions offer genetic advantage?  They’re actually pretty high.  If you look at traditional social-conservative positions (anti-birth control, pro-life, pro-traditional family, minimal social rearing, tough-on-crime), they present a selection-of-the-fittest model; have more kids, put them through continual trials to determine endurance and remove criminal behaviour from the gene pool through imprisonment or capital punishment.  Conversely, more liberal perspectives (pro birth control, pro-choice, in favour of strong social safety nets, restorative justice) present a model of reduced offspring generation but greater social investment in the rearing process through public education, healthcare, etc.  Call it a matter of quantity reduction leading to individual quality vs. fostering individual quality from the onset, but in a social context.
Still with me?  Let’s say my theory is right, that hard-wired emotional responses subconsciously determine individual positions around abortion.  From this perspective, content is quality-of-life; context is all the internal and external factors that determine quality of life.  The third element, consequence, isn’t just about individual choice; it’s about the genetic legacy our emotion-fueled choices are guiding us towards.  We want future generations to have the best genetic mix, which means providing quantity.  However, in a social context, fitness is about more than good genes; it’s also about resource access (shelter, diet, education, accommodation).
This last point is worth dwelling on.  If you look at global statistics, there is a strong correlation between incidences of poverty, a lack of education and quality of life.    There’s also a link between poverty and violence.  Key to this equation seems to be the empowerment and education of girls.  The more opportunity girls have and the greater control they have over their own lives, the better the quality-of-life outcomes are for everyone.  The conclusion is pretty clear – providing women with choice leads to better resource-access for all, resulting in greater general health and wealth.  Wealthy nations have lower birth rates than do poorer ones, but they also have lower crime ratesgreater life expectancies and lower incidences of infant deaths.
Of course, pro-choice doesn’t necessarily mean pro-abortion.  Based purely on conversational evidence, women who aren’t ready to be mothers would rather not get pregnant in the first place – the ability to manage procreation is part of the choice they’re looking for.  You might suggest complete abstinence from sex is the best birth control; that’s true, but advocating abstinence in the absence of broader reproductive education is mitigating choice.  You can deny your children sex education in the hopes that sex will elude them until marriage but again, that ignores their genetic programing to keep the species going.  Given the challenges at the front-end of procreation, perhaps the debate shouldn’t be between being pro- or anti-abortion, but between pro-abortion or pro-sex education and the provision of birth control.
If the goal is to have healthy children that grow into healthy, contributing adults who in turn beget their own healthy children, it’s not a numbers game; it’s about quality.  We want to have an equitable playing field that empowers all children to reach their full potential, adding value to society while also maximizing their own individual opportunity.  Of course, this means broad public education, ensuring proper nutrition and access to healthcare (including birth control) when it’s needed.  This also means ensuring our children develop a certain level of social responsibility, learning to control their emotions rather than be controlled by them.
Until such time as we have perfected medicine, universalized and personalized education, ended poverty and eliminated crimes of passion, the reality is there will be children conceived who can’t and won’t ever have equitable opportunity.  As the weight of responsibility for these offspring falls most heavily on the mothers – not just during the pregnancy, but the life that follows – it is the mothers who must have ultimate responsibility on what happens to them.  Ultimate responsibility includes the option to choose abortion.  The best thing that society can do is empower potential mothers (and, for that matter, potential fathers) to make the best, most fully-informed choices possible.  It’s through education that we learn the value of consciously planning ahead.

Thursday 8 May 2014

The Evolving Workspace

Lots of employers think all this motivational stuff is pandering.  You pay an employee for their labour - that's the transaction.  If they don't do what they're paid to, you can them.  If they do it better than expected, maybe you give them a raise (though really, only if they ask for one).  That's all there is to it.

This can be true for some kinds of work - like being on an assembly line, perhaps - but even then, monotony has been identified as a risk in accidents.  Rotating positions breaks behaviour, increases alertness and reduces the risk of someone losing a finger.

For creative work - ideation, problem solving, even networking - a transasctional approach to labour simply doesn't cut it.  The same holds true for client relations - end-users don't want a thing, they want an experience.

You can disagree with this - lots of leaders do.  They don't care about monotony, feelings or communication - they know they're boss and that what they message goes, period.  Try to convince them otherwise, they will either ignore you or fight back; either way, they're gonna stand firm in their positions.

Which is fine.  That, after all, is the whole point of evolution - that which fails to adapt, doesn't survive.

So how confident are you that your organization can weather the coming storm?

What the Future Looks Like

I love this photo.

Taken by Dean Black and sent to me just now by my grandfather, it tells a powerful story.

The man on the left is Thomas AnschΓΌtz of the German air force.  He's shaking hands with my grandpa, Ed Carter-Edwards, who served as an airman for Canada during World War II.

The photo was taken at a ceremony commemorating the liberation of Buchenwald Concentration Camp, where horrific acts of humanity were carried out by the Nazi SS.  You can see the camp gate building at the top left.

Had these men met during the war, they would have been enemies on the field of combat.  Yet it was a man from the German Luftwaffe who arranged for The Lost Airmen of Buchenwald to be transferred to a proper POW camp.

Today, though, these two got on famously.  They've remained in contact since the commemoration.

This is what the future looks like - not the trench warfare of modern politics or the "destroy their careers" mentality of ardent partisans.  Those are the kinds of tactics that lead to actual war and actual extermination attempts.

We need to stop retreating into past battles and start looking to build sustainable relationships for the future.  Live together, die alone, etc.
It's as simple as that.

I don't know about you, but if we're gonna end up there anyway, I say we start now.  

It's not like we're getting any younger.

Hudak Whack-A-Mole: Priorities Need Context

I woke this morning to the voice of Tim Hudak talking up his Million Jobs plan.  

You have to give Hudak this - he's got a wicked voice for radio.

As part of his spiel, Hudak dropped that well-worn phrase "if you have a hundred priorities, you don't have any."  There is logic in this; bouncing around from one hot-button issue to the next is like throwing starfish back into the ocean one at a time.  It wastes time, energy and resources without addressing structural problems.

This is why plans are so important; a solid plan identifies a problem and lays out a path to solve it systematically, with reference to all the potential road bumps along the way.  A good plan starts with a SWOT analysis to get the lay of the land.

This is basic Sun-tzu; know yourself, your enemy and the terrain, you will never be defeated.

Of course, Hudak has been defeated, repeatedly, which suggests he has continuously failed to understand one or more elements of these pillars to success.

I have written at length about what I think Hudak's key weaknesses are - in a nutshell he's stubborn, functionally-fixed and over-confident in himself, which means less able to accept advice from others.

Which is too bad, because there's a nugget of advice I used to hear regularly from one of his key advisers that he would do well to consider now:

If you haven't identified the right problem, all your efforts will be pointed in the wrong direction.

An example of this would be Rob Ford's fixation on "the war on cars" and "subways, subways, subways."

What problem is he trying to solve?  By the look of things, he wants to get people off the roads so that more cars can ride on them.  He also wants suburbs to have easier, car-free access to the downtown core via subway.

You can see the problem inherent in this - if more people from the 'burbs are taking the subway downtown, that means more, not less people on the streets, competing with cars throughout the day.  

It would also mean an even higher number of new passengers transiting through main stations like Union, which is taxed to the max to manage capacity as it is.  

But I doubt Rob Ford has ever tried to commute into town and move onto The Path in the morning.  The Path, of course, is the underground artery for Bay Street and Toronto's business sector.  Making that portion of town harder to reach makes no sense.

And that's before considering the fact that Toronto isn't just a business hub - it's tourism, livability, conventions, art, so on and so forth.  People want to live downtown because it's a fun, accessible place to be.  

If you remove the pedestrian accessibility, you start to starve off pedestrian traffic.  And if there's no major solution for parking, you're going to end up with a ridiculously crowded subway system and cars driving in circles looking for places to park - meaning, more people will just give up and stay away.  

But back to Tim Hudak.  He's identified a million jobs as what Ontario needs, although we actually have 588,000 unemployed.  Does this mean he's anticipating Ontario's unemployed population to grow by a half-million under his watch?  Does he want to import more labour, perhaps through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program?  Or would some of these jobs be taken up by chain gangs?

A million jobs sounds great, but scratch the surface a little bit, and the problems start to emerge.  What problem, exactly, is he trying to solve?

Well, his priority is jobs, period; his rationale for this is that Ontario's economy isn't in great shape, but given all our advantages, working together we should be far better off than we are.  Fair enough.  We do have lots to offer here and we have the capacity to be stronger than we are.

Part of why Ontario's economy has been so rocky of late, however, has to do with the global economy; corporations that are looking to reduce costs are looking for the cheapest, most regulation-free regions to settle in.  Especially when we're talking traditional manufacturing positions that require little training, you can pretty much settle anywhere.

So they're going to Bangladesh, where they don't need to invest in their human resources or safety infrastructure.  But they're still selling to us - cheap products, cheaply made by abused labour.  There's a problematic picture emerging here that will impact those corporations in the long-run, but in the short-run their goal is to make as much money as quickly as they can, regardless of consequences to others, and move on.

Hudak backed away from Right to Work for the election, but there's no reason he couldn't revisit it should he win.  Whether intentionally or not, he's trying to make Ontario competitive for low-pay, low-skilled jobs with some of the worst labour-condition jurisdictions in the world.  Does he think that's good for Ontario's best interests?

This is also a one-note plan; he tells us each of his candidates has a plan in their back-pockets; are they tailored?  What will work in, say, Timmins-James Bay won't function in Kitchener-Waterloo or Trinity-Spadina.  How does his plan support diversified growth in fields ranging from advanced manufacturing to agriculture?  Where's he at in terms of nurturing all the new industries emerging courtesy of the Knowledge Economy?

Beyond that, he seems to have an expectation that once you have jobs, people will fill them and all will be well.  This is naive, like assuming that a horse brought to water will drink.  Particularly when it comes to Ontario's under-employed populations; New Canadians, First Nations, youth, people with various physical and mental illnesses - there are all kinds of hurdles that need to be overcome from both sides for sustainable employment to happen.

Where does Hudak stand on occupational mental health?  Where does he stand on the emerging management revolution as new leaders find better ways to motivate and compensate employees doing knowledge work?  

All of his policies seem geared to the behavioural economics of a bygone age, that of the Industrial Economy.  How does he think he can move us back that way successfully as the rest of the world marches forward?

Hudak has a plan and he's prepared to stick to it - but it's the wrong plan with the wrong goals. 

 Since he doesn't understand himself, his opponent or the terrain that is Ontario's opportunities in the global economy, he would inevitably spend much of his tenure as Premier playing whack-a-mole, picking fights to score wins while our economy failed to improve and the population became increasingly restless.

Under these circumstances and having finally won the centre seat, what would Hudak do?  Whatever it takes to win, of course.  And he'd have all the resources of government at his disposal to do so.  

Expect, of course, for this whole Open Government thing.  The call for transparency and the growing, international movement towards holding government to account is taking root here just as much as it is anywhere else.  As transparency of decision-making processes would run as contrary to Hudak's partisan interests as it does to Stephen Harper's, one could expect him to move away from Open Government and focus on restricting data access.

Otherwise, people might start questioning his rationale and as we've seen, he doesn't respond well to being called out on irrational choices.

Unfortunately, the genie's out of the bottle on this one.  It's beyond Hudak's control to go back to a time he may be more comfortable with.  Trying to reverse the course of history would only inflame our structural crises, which may be a good thing - sometimes it does take a brushfire to clear away yesterday's detritus and allow for new growth.

Which, when you think about it, actually fits perfectly with Hudak's personal philosophy.  He doesn't believe in corporate welfare, social welfare or state involvement in pretty much anything.  Hudak's all about survival of the fittest - that which is best able to succeed on its own should be allowed to do so, laissez-faire style, with that which can't fading away.

This may prove a fitting analogy for Hudak's political career.  After all, it's that which is best able to adapt that survives.