The early days of this marathon federal election campaign confirm a sad fact: none of the party leaders is worthy of leading Canadians.
Not one has displayed the courage needed to shake the addiction of serving their political parties and their self interests, instead of the people. None has had the grit to reject toxic politics and personal attacks as tactics for getting elected.
Their policy thoughts are based on information drawn from their most trusted sources: the pollsters, spin doctors, lobbyists and media manipulators.
Canada, like the United States, has lost over the last few decades the concept of servant leadership. At one time political service was an honour and a duty. Thomas Jefferson, author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, envisioned a government of citizen farmers serving fellow citizens for four years, then returning to their farms.
Now political service is a career, a job that provides good salary, plenty of perks and prestige and excellent pension. All three federal main party leaders – Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau – are career politicians. Their skills are political skills directed at gaining and retaining power for their parties.
The problem of having career politicians should be obvious. Because they have no other career (and future retirement income) to fall back on, they must devote more effort and energy to getting re-elected. That means less effort and energy to devote to serving the people.
Servant leadership means putting all others above yourself. It means understanding the interests and needs of your followers and listening actively to what they have to say. It grows from the kind of humility demonstrated by Mahatma Ghandi, who walked among his people in homespun clothes. And from Pope Francis washing the feet of convicted criminals.
It is not that the country lacks leadership. Much good leadership is found outside political arenas. Leaders in industry and business know that cynicism, incivility and belittling their competitors do not grow their enterprises. They understand that gathering diverse views, pursuing change unrestricted by party tenets, and accepting compromise are building blocks for success.
Many of those leaders want no personal involvement in politics that have become too partisan to achieve much of anything.
Howard Schultz, self-made billionaire and Starbucks chairman, gave us some insights into this problem recently when he wrote a piece for New York Times in which he said he would not enter the U.S. presidential election fray.
“Our nation has been profoundly damaged by a lack of civility and courage in Washington, where leaders of both parties have abdicated their responsibility to forge reasonable compromises . . . .”
The times in which we live demand strong leaders which we don’t have and are unlikely to have soon. Unfortunately it will take a dire crisis for the best leadership to step forward. It has happened before: The Second World War produced Britain’s Winston Churchill. The Depression years brought forward C. D. Howe in Canada.
We need people like these to pull us all together. We need leaders who will spend all their energy working together and building consensus.
We have three mainstream parties in Canada capable of forming a federal government. But ours is becoming a one-party system in which the winner forms a government with the principal goal of getting re-elected and the losers spend their time undercutting it.
We need a return to a democracy where there are no winners and no losers. Just elected citizens working on behalf of all Canadians.
That’s a pipe dream right now. The October federal election will produce much of the same old, same old. It might be in a different form, with perhaps a minority New Democrat government held up by the Liberals.
And then all the barking will begin anew as each party tries to knock the other out of the way and gain sole ownership of the government.
It probably doesn’t matter who wins and who loses. The bureaucrats (remember when they were called public servants) will keep the country running. Hey, look at Italy, or better still Greece, the cradle of our democracy.