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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 28 June 2014

Peter MacKay: If Not For The Dog

It's a powerful letter, this one.  In it, Peter MacKay's wife defends her husband as an empathetic, loving man with increasingly thick skin that, quite frankly, doesn't deserve the beating he keeps getting in the media.
I don't buy it.  I haven't since I first read it.
I've spent some time thinking about this instinctive rejection of the letter's tone and content.  Why do I intuitively feel it's too scripted, too all-encompassing and somehow incongruous wit the actions of the Peter MacKay we've seen on the public sphere for years and years?  Or perhaps, why does it seem consistent as the sort of play-the-empathy-card tactic that we've seen him use before?
It's possible that I'm a natural cynic, that I'm more partisan than I lead myself to believe or that I've programmed myself to be mistrustful of all things MacKay.  This is why I've spent so much time deconstructing my thoughts before writing this.
Ultimately, it comes down to the dog.
No, not, that dog.  The one MacKay borrowed to increase his empathetic appeal after his break up with Belinda Stronach. 
It was a clear optics play - a man who has wielded power, broken trust and manipulated countless friends and enemies alike in his quest for power was insincere coming across as a heart-broken man needing warm hugs to heal.
First off, the Belinda Stronach the world knows wouldn't have been interested in a weak-kneed man like that.  She's a power-broker and wants to be with people with equal drive and strength of will as she has.
McKay seems to like powerful women himself.  He knows the world he's in and would naturally want a partner who gets why he does what he does - 'cause a lot of it ain't nice.
Second off, back to that broken trust thing; MacKay lied to a friend about the future of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, selling out his brand and loyalties for what seemed like a good political deal.
Third off, back to optics - MacKay, in politics for ages, gets the game.  He uses it to his advantage.  That's what politicians do - they're poor actors, but they aim to frame their public persona none-the-less.
Fourth - his policy record doesn't match up with the bleeding-heart liberal his wife's letter portrays him to be.  Case in point, the recent prostitution legislation.
So it's not with cause that I question the sincerity, or at the very least the intent, of the letter.
One thing I still haven't been able to wrap my head around - if MacKay is working 16 hour days, when is it that he's doing all this story-reading, diaper-changing and bathing of his child?  The impression the letter tries to convey is that he's all things to all people, a superman.  I'm a dad and I've spent much time in and around politics - what I know is that when you're putting in 16 hour days, you're often kissing your kids quickly on your way out the door in the morning and kissing them on the head long after they've gone to bed when you return home.
As a Minister, MacKay spends more time on the road that I've ever done, making quality time with his kids and the recycling that much harder. 
Not to say he doesn't do these things, when he can - but when he can will be far less than what the letter implies.  It's a great line, though - the kind of thing a seasoned political staffer would come up with. 
That I'm even suspicious of whether the letter was written entirely by Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay is pretty disconcerting, but it doesn't come from nowhere.  We've seen lies, obfuscations, false statements, bribery of dying men, and many more egregious acts from the Party of which MacKay plays an important role - and he's been in the middle of many of these political truths that negate reality-based truth.
Which, of course, means that I'm even more interested in where the facts that are unquestionable (who raised Peter and how) come to play.  As the only boy, it sounds like, in a female-dominated household, was little Peter doted on?  Was he pushed harder for being a boy than his female siblings?
I have no idea how MacKay was raised, nor do I know the intimate details of his relationship with his family.
What I do know is that he has been a shrewd, manipulative political operator that knows the value of the right image, and has a tendency in playing the empathy card while trying to get others to come to his defense.
Peter MacKay may very well be an amazing dad, a loving husband and a devoted constituency man.  We have very little tactile information to go on either way.  What we do know, based on the public record, is that he is partisan first, politician to the max and not to be trusted.
It's really unfortunate how people like this taint all those around them, but that's what you focus on image over substance.

Thursday 26 June 2014

Just Imagine - Open, Responsible Negotiations on Common Ground

When you're out on common, open ground, yeah - it's easier for people to see the lay of the land.
So, while there isn't no money - there's allocated money, there's deficit, there's new tax options, etc. - the reality is that we'd be in a much stronger position reducing the cost of what we're doing and not taxing those with little spare income more.
But whoever said it was all about money?
Traditionally, union bargaining is about a narrow suite of things; salary, vacation time, benefits, etc. The goal is to get what you can for your members from employers who are trying to keep what they can in terms of flexibility and reduced cost.
One side pushes their own interests, the other theirs, with the expectation that the pushing and pulling will land with best-case solutions.  Which, of course, is never the case.
Unions penalize non-unionized workers, protect members instead of empowering them; employers focus on their bottom line instead of systematic solutions.  The silo-based focuses result in duplication, gaps and overlaps that are entirely avoidable and, above all, costly.
So - how might we stop focusing on our siloed solutions and do the open, common ground thing?
There is so much that's wrong with the way work is constructed; training, communication, time vs productivity commitment, occupational mental health, so on and so forth that is being ignored, because players are so "fixed" on their pre-determined wins.  It doesn't have to be.
Of course, the number one thing that needs to change before everything else becomes possible is culture.  Office culture, unions culture, union-and-government culture, so on and so forth.  People need to stop being so damned defensive, so one-off and focus on iterative shared solutions.
I can tell you right now, there are a ton of virtuous schemers out there working in different sectors with the goal of making this happen, meeting in the middle.  It's a long slog, though, with no guarantee of success in the short term.
That's the whole point though, I though - to go far, move forward together.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

The Horwath NDP Remind Us Why They Lost

I don't think it makes sense the way you're using it. -   Misc

I really want to be sure I understand this. 

Using language that sounds a lot like a disgruntled pollster, Horwath came out today to remind voters that she's sticking around as NDP Leader.  Given that it was a day we were learning about new cabinet positions (well, kinda, given yesterday's leaks), I don't think this was a burning reveal many people were yearning for.
Andrea Horwath - I keep using this word "strategy" but It doesn't make sense the way i'm using it
As far as Ontarians (or those of who pay attention to politics at any rate) are concerned, the election is done - and we're glad for it.  After a tense minority and a painfully long campaign, we're now settling in for the next four years and trying to determine the tone and focus of government. 

For stakeholders, this time frame is about getting the lay of the land, figuring out issues of concern that could crop up and best ways to get your issues before government for action.

Christine Elliot's leadership bid announcement was well timed - "hey Ontario, here are the new Cabinet players you need to be paying attention to, and at the same time here's the Opposition Leader who'll be engaging them."  It's a smart move for her and a considerate one for her Party - leadership stuff.

By demonstrating a continued embrace of her inner Howard Hampton, Horwath is essentially telling stakeholders that she's going to be of precious little value to them in getting their issues dealt with.  If there were many stakeholders still paying attention to her, that is.  Truth be told, she doesn't have the influence she once did.

It's probably a good thing Horwath's presser didn't get much traction.

This is really sad - while I was confident we'd be seeing a new leader and a new tone for the PCs, I had hopes the NDP would return to its broker role with a focus on solutions.  If there were three women leaders willing to focus on solutions rather than blame - and they found some pivotal common-ground issues to collaborate on - I pictured a potential for culture-change within the Legislature that could finally support the same in the Public Service, then Unions and the Private Sector. 

Systems, not silos; shared solutions, not pick fights and wins.

So, to summarize:

- after having lost and being reminded how she lost, Horwath holds a presser to rub salt in the eye of her supporters and generally blame her results on Ontarians at large.  It largely comes across as a "but don't forget me" plea for attention to the media.

- it's a presser that happens when nobody cares, and provides the wrong kind of contrast; Liberals, winners; Christine Elliot, likely leader of the Opposition; then Horwath, trying to remind people she matters.  While implicitly stating she doesn't, because she couldn't inspire voters to reject fear or whatnot.

joker mind loss - look at me!! it's all part of my plan. That makes sense.It's a strategy that, frankly, makes no sense.  In a way, though, it feels like a continuation of the NDP's plan of attack that's been in place since before they triggered the election.
Traditional political wisdom suggests you stick to your plan come rain or shine; like an athlete mid-race, it's doubt that can take you out of the competition.  Stick to your plan if you want to win; deviate at your peril.

Only the electoral race is over and actual Parliamentary business isn't supposed to be race
-like in nature.  And the plan the NDP are sticking to demonstrably a bad one.

It started when the NDP attacked Ontario News Watch for a story which essentially stated the 3rd Party would be triggering an election.  "Lies!" they brought out Gilles Bisson to say - only, they proved accurate.  Attacking a reporter when she's right, at the beginning of an election, ain't good planning.

It was the same sort of mentality that carried throughout the campaign, though, which is why they gained no traction.

Is this the role Horwath wants to carve out or herself for four years?  She's essentially branding herself as the Return of Hudak; obstinate, blameless and bitter.  If she thinks four years of obstructionism will work out for her in the long-run, Horwath might want to rethink that.

#WeAreOpen to Collaboration: How Worlds Collide

You're not going to find a lot of Social Media coverage from yesterday evening's #WhereWorldsCollide mash-up event. 
That's my fault.  I had assumed people would come, chat a bit, take some pics and focus on engaging their impressions with the outside world, as tends to happen at events.
It was a Plato's Desktop moment for me, expecting people to behave in this format as they do in others.  If I'd thought a bit further ahead, I would have invited amazing digital whizzes like @CPantasis to come and focus strictly on live-tweet the event
What actually happened - the reason why people weren't madly tweeting away - is that they were, instead, doing exactly what I'd hoped they would do.
Instead of talk over each other, people were engaging, networking, exploring opportunity and ways to gain individually through working collaboratively.
It was a beautiful sight to see.
My friend @lobbychampion brought new friends of her own who found instant synergies with people like @MissYuliaK.  New connections were made while surprising ones were found; one of my favourite people in the world, @sylvkim the managing master at CSI Regent Park reconnected with an old friend, my new @WSIC_Canada partner-in-crime @AlisonUttley.
Toronto Mayoralty hopeful @MorganBaskinTO got to connect with potential employee @COTKeith, who was unquestionably the most sought-after connection in the room. I could go on, and will, but the main point of this piece isn't the individual connections made, as important as they are, but the big picture that I see emerging and am so excited to see coming to life.
I'm hoping my partner, the wickedly talented and amazing simplifier of CraigThink can turn this into an infographic of some kind.
Here it is, folks - this is where we're going.
ON THE HORIZON: @AmericasForum.  So much potential there, waiting to be sparked.
- Public Servants like @CreativeGov, @hizeena and the amazing @kentdaitken are committed to both opening up public data for public access and realizing the internal reforms necessary for the Public Service to maximize its potential and adapt to the needs of modern society.  These folk and so many others take every stereotype you know about bureaucracy and turn it on its head.
They are supported by online data platforms like @WebNotWar that are committed to building communities of engagement, empowering people individually and collectively to reach their and our maximum potential.  Strong individuals for a strong society.
We also have @MaRSInnovation and @MaRSDD committed to helping the next Google or Facebook or iPhone go big.  The folk at MaRS, including the amazing @vasta do a great job helping connect dedicated people with world-changing ideas to the resources and capital they need to explode on the world stage.
These folk have great tools, resources, drive, everything - but they do speak a very sophisticated language.  They can market 'til the cows come home, but are they connecting with the people at the other end of the spectrum?
Where MaRS is great at helping people who already have a plan take it further, @My_SoJo is a community-building platform that aims to help anyone with an idea transform it into action.  This is key; while MaRS is focused on the home-runs, which is great, we also need to be helping everyone get around the diamond. 
Economies aren't built on star players, nor do we want to put all our eggs in that basket.  We want to ensure the small businesses, the start-ups, the people who will be able to sustain themselves, maybe a small staff, but will give back to their communities, too.
SoJo is doing a beautiful thing with their platform; before I knew it existed, I had planned to build something similar but now that I know it exists I encourage everyone to check it out.
Additionally, there is @CSITo - the Centre of Social Innovation, a co-working space with a dream of building a better world.  CSI does more than just provide space; it builds community, offers expertise and value-add and facilitates partnerships in the interests of catalyzing great things.
What Make Web Not War does with government and the corporate sector is what SoJo and CSI do with social entrepreneurs and, increasingly, grassroots leaders and organizations.
With laissez-faire capitalism, we sometimes get the model backwards - the goal becomes pushing people to climb to the top rather than strengthening the foundation on which society is built.  We all live on common ground, and the only way we can grow a sustainable society is from the bottom up.  Otherwise, you end up with Jenga.
Fortunately for us, we have great leaders on the ground, setting the example of the sort of change and leadership we need to see.  Folks like @Imsoiccy23  have the right idea - hook people with what interests them and, through nurturing passion, start refining skill and commitment to bigger things.
Jabullah has a program that offers youth basketball training, but the program includes leadership training and community engagement as well.  Kids that go through his program walk away with a lot more than just the ability to dunk a ball - they pick up salesmanship, community engagement and the confidence to go out into the world and say, "I'm coming in and here's why you want me."
Also in Lawrence Heights are people like @JAYDAHMANN that aspire to build their own MaRSDD or CSI in their community, in partnership with @TOHousing, creating safe spaces for kids or anyone with entrepreneurial aspirations to have access to tools, training and mentorship in a stigma-free zone.
Lateral to all of this are firms like @Exhibit_Change and @SwerhunMeets that have the perfect process to help partners as diverse as all of these break down barrier of communication, identify where common ground lies and co-design shared solutions for our integrated world.
There are also organizations like @SamaraCDA and @WSIC_Canada committed to building knowledge and engagement in our democratic process, in an informed way, from the bottom up.
It just happens that there is an underutilized, beautiful building in Toronto's Little India that would make a great HQ for all these partners, with, naturally, the intent of being a hub only with staff proactively getting out into communities to engage directly with the people in person, as SoJo does so online.
Hopefully you can see where the connections lie.  All the stuff we're talking about, all the shared solutions and community building and empowering, it all exists right now - all we need to do is connect the dots.
That's the dream that's coming true.  Who wouldn't want to be part of that?

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Andrew Coyne, Radical Visionary

  - Andrew Coyne

I always get the feeling that if we were ever to chat one-on-one, Coyne and I would disagree on a lot of policy minutiae but agree on big-picture stuff about what makes a dynamic, participatory democracy great.

Coyne is a cynical idealist - he recognizes the system for what it is, but wishes it could be less.  Less expenditure, less a focus on sales and marketing techniques and more a discussion about policy, with actively engaged citizens making informed choices between policy suites and personalities they feel best able to implement their visions.  What matters is whether the policy is suited to the task, whether the change proposed is the change required.

The left-right political dichotomy frustrates him, especially in its arbitrariness.  The centre is what lies in our line of sight, largely determined after the fact rather than during an electoral race.  Always in motion, the centre is.  More appropriately, it's Parties shooting at the wall with the winners being the ones who get to paint the target around the holes they shot.

Meanwhile, the cost of public service continues to escalate.  It seems to me that, in Coyne's mind, it shouldn't - spending should remain as it was; the public service should remain stagnantly the same size as time moves on.  It's the cost of services that really command his attention.

Me, I'm a rational optimist.  I accept that, in politics as in all industries, more energy invariably gets focused on sales than on ideation.  It's almost like we're hard-wired to judge books by their covered - can you blame political Parties for playing the game?

It's less that politics is a blood sport than it its a mating contest - the winner doesn't get a trophy, so much as the chance to sew policy ideas for four years.  In this scenario, Political Parties are the bucks locking horns and the peacocks spreading their plumage while we, the voting public, are passive peahens.

Since Politics is such a game of sales and government is about service provision - not service evolution - there's precious little bandwidth for structural change.  This was a great model to have when the world changed at a more, shall we say, incremental pace, but that's not the case any longer. Infrastructure is ancient, demographics are swelling and changing and technology, of course, evolves faster than institutions can keep up.

The model that kept government contained is now chafing against our need to adapt with the times. We're rubbing to the left and right, finding ourselves constrained and yearning for change, without knowing to what.

It's a Plato's Cave thing - we are limited in our ability to define what we want by the vocabulary we have.  

This is where behavioural economics comes in - what is it truly that people need to succeed in the current social context?  What are the challenges we can't avoid, the opportunities too good to miss up and the positions worth taking now so that we're well-adapted for changes two or three steps down the road?

It's hard to figure any of that out if you're not actively looking down the road, sussing out the nuance of the present in full and projecting out potential scenarios.

Winning coalitions isn't about looking at the big picture any more than delivering a static suite of services is.  

I don't think we should be focusing on the cost of government and trying to reduce service expenses to what they were in some arbitrary position in the past.  To me, that's like trying to feed an adult based on the diet they had when they were children.  What we need to do - not just government, but society as a whole - is think through what it is we need to sustain ourselves individually and systematically.  

Government services might cost more, but result in less out-of-pocket expenses for things like transit or healthcare.  Government may cost less, but with more services being provided at lower cost by the private sector.  Or people might take more ownership of their lives, businesses engage in greater corporate social responsibility with government serving more of an executive function/coordination role.  

Of course, this sort of structural framing requires a radical change in how we perceive ourselves and the role of institutions in our lives.  It's a vision less focused on sales and individual gain and more committed towards optimizing a system of individuals in collaborative fashion.

Parties don't win elections by focusing on why - they win by focusing on how.  They win by narrowing their audience, picking fights and designing policy suites that appeal to targeted voter blocks.  Parties are constrained by these rules of the road; when they cease to play the game as is, they either fall off the map or we cease to have a democracy.

Which is why I'd encourage Coyne to look outside the political box a bit, get away from the usual suspects and take a look at the emerging Open Community, this generations Acquarian Conspiracy. There are virtuous schemers out there looking not to change the system for change's sake, but to align what we have with where we are already headed.

Most of these folk don't hold positions of power, nor do they wield fancy titles or have massive bank accounts.  They aren't catalyzing change because of what's in it for them, but because they are inspired by what we can be.

Leadership from the front - now how radical a vision is that?  The best part is, Coyne doesn't need to wait for someone else to get the ball rolling - he can be part of the change himself.

Monday 23 June 2014

Emergency Preparedness: Plan to Empower

Toronto is all set for emergencies that last for 72 hours.  They can handle a couple of these a year.  The problem, as last year demonstrated, is that we're not so ready for multiple seven-plus day emergencies a year.  

It's not that anyone has been asleep at the switch; we simply didn't have the need to be that ready.  Now, as sever weather events become more common, we no longer have that luxury.

Where do people turn?  What's the chain of engagement?  How does distribution, responsibility hand-offs, etc work for long-haul emergencies, especially when duration means that public resources aren't going to be free to circulate as rapidly as once they did?

None of this is clear, although the discussion continues.  The public sector doesn't want to give people cause to panic; they want the world to feel they are ready.  They also want to keep doing things the way they know how - from the top down.

This will no longer suffice.  What's required now is for communities themselves to become the first line of defense during large-scale severe weather events of prolonged duration.

So, how might we empower communities of engagement that have internalized plans and capacity, the ability to effectively coordinate with public services and all the fun stuff that goes with it?

That's a question we can only answer together.

Death, the Beginning

This, as a concept, fascinates me.  I've met some truly great people in my life, and one thing they've had in common is that fear of death has no power over them.  In particular, Chat Bowen, Buchenwald Survivor stands out.

Chat tells an amazing tale of being put in front of an SS firing squad that shouted and threatened him with the intent of scaring him into revealing information.  Chat was an American Airman and had no business being in the Camp in the first place.

While this was happening, Chat says, a deep calm fell upon him, as though he'd flatlined.  In that moment he realized that his end was already determined.  He began to laugh at the guards, laugh at the camp, at the whole situation.

Scared the buh-jeebies out of the SS, apparently.  He lived to tell his tale and still lives to this day in a Zen-like calm.

I've come close to death a number of times in my life, mostly silly ones - at the tip of a bull's horn, in the belly of a dormant volcano, on the edges of cliffs, so on and so forth.  A couple times I came by entirely by circumstance - most vividly when I contracted e coli in Ecuador.

What these experiences have taught me is that we are all mortal; like Chat, I recognize what the end is and have no delusion that I can somehow escape it.  Should death find me tomorrow, I'd be disappointed not to have more time as me, but wouldn't be afraid.  I know what to expect.

There's something both empowering and infuriating in this way of thinking.  The idea of time pressures takes on a whole different meaning; the fate of the world isn't determined in the space of one lifetime, much less four years, but has been determined since before time began.

That's the great secret.  

We are drops in the ocean of space and time.  Recognizing this, we need not fear what we have to lose, be it time or resources, but can focus on what we are part of.

That's the Undiscovered Country - not something that lies beyond, but something we have it in ourselves to become conscious of.

Richard Pietro needs a Bigger Boat

I one day hope to do an international open government tour on a boat

You should, Richard, you really should.

But be warned, Open Data Community... we know what happens when we move to bigger ponds...


Need a Bigger Boat - I THINK WE'RE GONNA NEED A                             BIGGER PLATFORM. Misc

Turning Over a New Leaf: Conserving Progressives

Alas, poor Hudak, we knew him well - stubborn, intransigent, confident to the point of delusion, bitterly confrontational to the end.  He wasn't so good at taking advice, that Hudak.

Maybe his successor will be different.

If not, the next Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario will follow common wisdom and spent four years dedicating every ounce of energy towards pillorying the governing Liberals, sussing out every scandal (real or manufactured) and chipping away at Premier Kathleen Wynne's integrity.

Good luck on that one - unless she suddenly hits some unforseen tipping point, Wynne will continue to use every scandal that emerges (and there will be scandals - government is too massive an industry for duplication, gaps, overlaps and plain short-sighted selfishness not to occur) as opportunities to reconnect with people and chip away at structural problems.

Wynne, a facilitator, is all about shared solutions.  She will work with partners to try and find wins that benefit everyone - having said that, as Premier she has timelines and entrenched opponents that won't be willing to play by the same rules.  I wouldn't be surprised if she has a labour fight or two on her hands.

These skirmishes will make for tempting fodder, as will expensed muffins, staff doing Twitter from public-paid for smartphones and all that kind of thing, but I would encourage Hudak's replacement not to aim for the low-hanging fruit.

Especially at the front-end of the mandate, now's the time to aim a little higher, to experiment a bit with bolder policy, to make a couple mistakes that can be learned from.  Through a process of iterative failure - bringing in broad plans that can be consulted on and refined over the coming years, the Tories can set themselves up with a polished plan that people will know and feel part of by the time the next election roles around.

But first, show that the PCs are still at the table and still serious about strengthening Ontario.  Do don't accomplish this by picking fights and poking government in the eye at every opportunity, but through tip-toeing onto that common ground we here so much about.

What does Team Wynne have in their playbook right now that the Tories could actually, seriously get behind?

Easy one - Open Government.

Open Government is a natural for the Conservatives - it's all about transparency and accountability to the people.  OpenGov opens expands the conversation, making every day citizens permanent voice in the process.  It creates new opportunities for civic engagement, but also entrepreneurship.

Premier Wynne made a big deal about Open Government, but it's been stewing on the backburner for a while now.  With the appointment of Jim Hamilton, Chief Privacy Officer and Archivist for the province taking temporary hold of the OpenGov reigns, it doesn't look like there's much focus on implementing the recommendations of Don Lenihnan's excellent Open By Default Report.

The new Conservative leader could spend time focusing on the concept, benefits and challenges in implementing Open By Default in the Legislature and in communication with the public.  Seeing as how Wynne needs a new Minister to shepherd the file, the PC critic should be a quick study and get out vocally as a champion for the file before the Government Minister has the opportunity to do the same.

Next one, also an easy fit - mental health, with a unique focus on occupational mental health.

When we tend to think of mental health, we focus on conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and whatnot. Conditions that can be accrued, like anxiety and depression, we dismiss as behaviour that can and should be controlled.

We have it all wrong.  Health is health; with the right accomodations, most biological conditions ranging from diabetes to allergies to height or left-handedness can be supported.  The same applies to persons with differing "mental abilities" - with the right resources, medications but above all, an understanding and supportive environment, you'd be surprised how much the "crazy" people have to offer society.

This is a different beast than accrued mental illness, although having the former certainly makes you more susceptible to the latter.

As the Ontario Public Service chafes under a significant demographic change, but also a change of culture (old-guard, top-down, secrecy-driven to millenials, lateral, proactivley sharing), morale is low and productivity a shadow of what it could be.  

Poor management, unclear expectations and, despite what the external world thinks, a growing number of unstable contract positions that extend for years have all contributed to an internal mental health crisis that is sapping the OPS' energy and fueling an incredibly high tab for anxiety and depression meds.

The reality is that poor working conditions are producing illness, like repetitive stress injuries of the mind.

What's happening in the OPS is symptomatic of a broader social awakening to the reality of mental health in the work place; the sorts of demands being placed on employees are not being accommodated in the right way.  Like cotton factory workers being blamed and fired for contracting respiratory illness, we're attacking human beings for having human responses to adverse conditions and assuming that carrot-and-stick motivation is all that's required to get them over it and back to work.  

The Provincial Tories' cousins didn't implement a National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace for no reason; whatever the boss likes to tell themselves, poor managers are making their employees sick, reducing their productivity and disengaging their customers.

Now we move into territory where the Tories can break some ground and be a little daring.

Unions - unions exist for a reason.  The labour revolution was a response to terrible workplace conditions that used to exist in North America and now exist in places like Bangladesh.  If it hadn't been for a united body bringing a forceful voice to table, labour reforms would never have happened - and we'd never have moved forward with a manufacturing-based economy.

Times have changed, though, and it's time for all organizations to change with it.   

Unions are wary of the PCs, for historical reasons.  They will be suspicious of any attempts by the Conservatives to engage with them.  At the same time, unions know they're in for some tough fights, if they insist on  maintaining the same, confrontational approach they've always embraced.

Now's the time for Tories to familiarize themselves with the notion of "how might we" and bring this question to union representatives and unionized workers - how might we restructure the system so that employees have a floor of comfort beneath them and are empowered with the tools they need to help their end-users succeed?

The answer to this question is not written; it's one that needs to be co-designed by participants.  Like a teacher who allows their class to come up with class rules, this process of "discuss, decide, do" provides a sense of ownership and responsibility to the team in any context.

Which brings us to Education.

Our educational system is antiquated.  This isn't to say it's bad, or the people in it are bad, though it's natural for people to get defensive when they feel they're being attacked.

The truth is that front-line teachers, administrators, even parents have recognized that the current model of talking to students and then testing them on their ability to regurgitate answers on standardized tests aren't helping them develop the skills they need to succeed in a dynamic, fast-paced work environment.

Truth be told, we don't even know what jobs are going to be available for our youth when they are done school - will post-secondary education be a boon, or simply an added cost?  Do professors know enough to teach their kids the latest on social media marketing, behavioural economics and the like?

The education system needs an overhaul, not just so that it's affordable, but so that it continues to produce high-functioning students able to succeed in the global village.  Our slate-based, harvest-season off model does not accomplish that.

Tories have four years to iterate solutions; if they're seen to do so seriously and with unwavering conviction, it doesn't matter how many poor iterations they start with - by the time the next election roles around, they could have a winning formula to offer that people trust because they co-designed it themselves.

Last one, for now - conservation.

It's the biggest irony of the political right - they say "conserve" but when it comes to resources, they practice "exploit."  They seem to favour an economy of people breaking their backs hewing wood and hauling water, chipping minerals out of the ground, leaving gaps in their wake.

True conservatism isn't focused on unlimited growth, but sustainable growth.  How might we make best use of what we have first, then expand operations second?  I cannot tell you how many organizations I've been involved with that fritter away money on poor time management, ineffective internal communications processes and the like.  They don't care, though, so long as they keep landing new clients.

The same applies to energy production - we keep talking about the need for more capacity when, truth be told, we're wasting more than half of energy produced through heat loss.  If the Tories are smart, they'll take a good hard look at what Denmark has done in terms of regulating thermal capture and toy around with ideas to apply a similar model here in Ontario.

Last point - there are no better stewards of the land than those who work with it every day.  By focusing on fear tactics, the Tories have traditionally pushed rural Ontarians into a reactive posture and kept First Nations communities on the defensive.  This is a mistake and now is the time to rectify it.

Rural Ontarians don't want to live like urban Ontarians, but they do want a piece of modern success.  Ensuring they have the capacity to play on the global arena, innovate new idea and collaborate is key - and sold internet access in every corner of the province is key to that.

In terms of sustainable growth, the Tories should sit down with First Nations' leaders and learn more about traditional practices like the Medicine Wheel and aboriginal approaches to pedagogy; there is much to be learned.  That learning process can also lead to stronger relationships.

There is much the Tories can do, policy-wise, if they want to position themselves as a government-in-waiting.  They have four years to play with and iterate ideas - iterate being key.  Fail early, fail often and don't back away simply because opponents are attacking you in the short-term; government isn't about quick wins, but long-term solutions.

We've gotten stagnant of late; infrastructure both physical and social has become mired in complexity, with growth falling victim to a silo-based culture.

If they want to earn their keep and become a respected voice at in Ontario, the next PC leader might want to look at progress as the thing we most need to conserve.