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What has happened to true “leadership” in Canadian politics?

Over the past 7 years we have watched the decline of honesty and integrity among some U.S. political leaders on both sides of the aisle. The Trump era has seen childlike name calling, immature and dishonest rhetoric, complete character assassination and verbal attacks that are not only aimed at elected officials and candidates but reach into their parents, children and even the attractiveness of spouses. It’s far worse than the typical partisan and occasion personal criticism of political rivals that has always been present. It has become nasty, threatening and dangerous. The dishonesty is now so disturbing that it’s hard to know what to believe about who.

Although former President Trump started the age of verbal silliness, his gaggle of cult-like lemmings – including some high-level officials, have followed his lead in earnest as they continue to spread misinformation and stoke the flames of aggression. Far-right, armed and threatening militia groups have formed. This led to violent attacks on some state buildings, and even a fatal assault on the nation’s Capital Building over what they were led to believe was a “stolen election’. The so-called “leader” of the strongest democratic nation on earth did nothing to stop the carnage, but simply sat back and grinned as the plan he inspired unfolded.

“Ugly” doesn’t begin to describe what we have seen and influential political “leaders” aren’t trying to stop the insanity. Many of them support, condone or initiate the disturbing activity. Any that do stand up to the lies and violence are inevitably ousted from the party. Others keep their disagreement to themselves out of fear of losing the political support of Trump and his base of voters.

I realize I’m pointing strongly at the Trump side of the issues, but undoubtedly there has been some name-calling and mistruths propagated on the Democratic side of the spectrum, including some far-left activists who have also led some violent confrontations. All wrong for sure, but small potatoes compared to what the Trump regime has spawned.

We used to say, “Well that’s their problem.” But how are things on our side of the international border? Bad and getting worse I’m afraid.

This kind of divisive discourse was relatively unseen on this level in Canadian politics until recent years. There was always open childishness in the various legislatures that I found embarrassing to watch. I’m sure an element of publicly made false allegations and quiet backstabbing have always occurred since Confederation. That’s politics. But a 24/7 continuum of unprofessional and often misleading verbal assaults to and fro between the major parties and leaders is much newer to us. There’s a total lack of respect that permeates many of the players. They seldom reach a consensus on any issue, and it never seems to be about what is best for Canadians, but what is best for individuals and party politics. How is this leadership?

The so-called Freedom Convoy that hit Ottawa and some other major centres was a protest like no other. It was allegedly conceived to protest Covid vaccine mandates and international travel restrictions, but it was more than that. Canadians of all shapes, sizes and political stripes participated, ignited by some key far-right bad activists, and the resulting criminal activity, community impacts and tension were palpable. Political leaders were even unable to unite as to whether that action to paralyze a city and demand the removal of government was inappropriate.

The ethical issues surrounding our PM and some of his key Ministers have been resounding. From the SNC-Lavalin scandal and the firing of two female Cabinet Ministers; to questionable Trudeau family travel issues; to the controversary emanating from the release of investigative information following the Nova Scotia Shooting; on to the Freedom Convoy Protest and the invoking of the never-used Emergency Act legislation; and most recently the Chinese election influence debacle, it has become increasingly difficult to trust the words of the PM and his devoted band of Muskateers. To the untrained eye it would appear that not only did two female Ministers lose their jobs on his watch, a female RCMP Commissioner was thrown under the bus as the PM dealt with significant finger-pointing – at him.

Conversely, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, hasn’t been a pillar of virtue when it comes to following the Marcus of Queensbury Rules. He spends more time spewing venom about the PM than he does telling us what Canada will look like under his leadership, should he win the next election. Some of it has been humorous, much of it extremely quick-witted, but it’s growing old. Enough already. We need to move forward as a country and we need adults in the room to actually lead us through these difficult times.

As a speaker and author on leadership, I watch these issues very closely. Leadership should be about doing what is right for the people being served and making tough decisions accordingly. It should be a demonstrative continuum of honesty, ethical behaviour, integrity, open and respectful dialogue, building trust, finding happy mediums in difficult times and people working together to do the right things for the right reasons. It should also be about learning from the past but focusing on the future and making things better for all. It shouldn’t be about personal agendas and partisanship, or protective mistruths. And it should never include unprofessional and infantile name-calling and belittling attacks on fellow Canadians. Is that what we’re seeing?

We need leadership across the board in this country. This is Canada for God-sakes. We have always been a cut above, and the citizens of every municipality, province and our entire nation deserve nothing less.

I certainly know who I won’t vote for in our next federal election and if the other guy doesn’t put his big-boy pants on soon, I’ll be hard-pressed to support anyone. That makes me sad.

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