As the days grow shorter in the northern hemisphere and Canadians prepare for autumn, some political junkies interested in the Liberal Party of Canada will increase their debate about who should be its new leader. I believe that before we clarify “who” should take on this role, there’s room for more dialogue about “what” the party would want a new leader to do.
I propose this sample question: What should be the goals of the leader of our country? I risk ridicule and charges of naïveté for tackling such a topic in this blog. I am neither a politician nor a political science scholar. But I offer these thoughts as an ordinary Canadian with the conviction that all Canadians can and should increase their involvement in the political dialogue of this country.
The question has been on my mind since I read an article a few weeks ago by John Ibbitson. He suggested that our Prime Minister uses his power for two purposes: “The first is to entrench the Conservative Party as a political institution. The second is to make Canada a fundamentally more conservative place.” Surely a Prime Minister’s goals should be more lofty and generous than that! To be fair this list of motivations is presumably only Mr. Ibbitson’s guess of Mr. Harper’s intentions. Does anyone know if Mr. Harper has specifically outlined his goals lately?
Nonetheless, my reflection on the question gave me the opportunity to think about what goals the leader of this great nation should be. I came up with a list of 6 things that I think Canada’s leader should address. You can remember them with the formula 4E + H + W (that is, equality, economy, environment, education, health and world). Permit me to elaborate.
1. Aim for equality of opportunity
The top goal of this country’s leader should be to develop the nation such that all citizens, communities and regions have equal and fair opportunity to live healthy and meaningful lives. This will happen through a focus on the goals that follow.
2. Sustain a strong economy
There is much more to leadership than supporting the economy. But a nation’s leader has a commitment to enhance and sustain the circumstances that will allow economic security for all. On one hand this requires prudence and sensible spending. On the other hand it requires the courage and commitment to create jobs and wisely expand the development of resources.
3. Care for the environment
Along with the care of human resources, this country’s leader is entrusted to accept responsibility for a massive amount of the world’s physical resources. In addition to a pro-active role to address climate change and environmental protection, the impact on the environment needs to be front of mind in every decision that is made by leaders in this country.
4. Make education a priority
I am well aware that education is primarily a matter of provincial jurisdiction. But I believe the federal government should set the stage for effective provincial leadership by confirming the absolute priority of education and training as the drivers of the economy, health and well-being of Canadian citizens. I recall a great Hausa proverb that says: Prosperity is the child of education.
5. Ensure the conditions necessary to support health for all
I have written elsewhere about my conviction that the federal government must take responsibility to support the core principles of the wisely developed Canada Health Act. Publicly funded universal health insurance is a non-negotiable essential for Canada. Canada’s top leader must utilize the power and responsibility vested in him or her to make sure Canadians will always have fair access to top quality health care that is publicly, effectively and efficiently administered.
6. Re-establish Canada’s role as a world model for peace, welfare and good governance
I am indebted to the writing of John Ralston Saul for the refresher on the founding vision for Canada that he describes in his recent book “A Fair Country”. His book has the potential to inspire the best in all of us. In the same way, Canada’s leader should make us all want to contribute what we can to build an even better Canada. Saul says: “One of the jobs of a leader is to remind citizens of their most decent intentions.” Every Canadian has some decent intentions to contribute. When it comes to the world stage, Canada has a great deal to offer. Our voice should be heard on matters of global security. Our generosity should be expressed in response to matters such as poverty and hunger. Our experience should be put to good use in efforts to build peace. And we must contribute serious solutions for the world’s environmental issues such as climate change.
To sum up these goals, I’d like to paraphrase a description of the late Steve Jobs. Andy Hertzfeld, a colleague of Jobs described his motives in designing computers as follows: “The goal was never to beat the competition, or to make a lot of money. It was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater.”
Someday I would like to be able to describe the Prime Minister of Canada the same way. Here’s what I would hope to say about his or her aspirations: The goal is not to beat the other political parties, nor to lust after power or money. The goal is to make Canada the greatest country possible, or even a little greater.
I conclude by repeating the thoughts of Northrop Frye who said: “I think now that the simplest questions are not only the hardest to answer, but the most important to ask, so I’m going to raise them and try to suggest what my present answers are.” I submit my present answers to you. I welcome your response to advance the dialogue and debate.