Straight Talk
MONTE SOLBERG - Leaders need to have policies

Liberal Party of Canada leadership candidate Justin Trudeau takes questions from student supporters at the U of T Earth Science Centre in Toronto November 13 2012.

Credits: DAVE ABEL/QMI AGENCY

MONTE SOLBERG | QMI AGENCY

Recently, in the Toronto Star, Justin Trudeau told us he wasn’t going the policy route in the Liberal leadership race; instead he wanted to talk values and “thought process.”

There you go. Who needs a debate about ideas when we can sit around on yoga mats in our Lululemon sweatpants and hold a national rap session on “thought process?”

In the same interview, he said he wanted to “listen” to Canadians while also engaging them in a “conversation.”

As much as it might be fascinating to explore Justin’s thought process, I’m going to beg off.

In the old days, patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel. Today, the new scoundrel refuges include going on listening tours, having dialogues, engaging in conversations and holding endless consultations. Now Justin Trudeau has added “thought process” to that dubious list.

Thought process about what exactly?

If we can’t examine his policy ideas to improve the country, what aspect of his thought process would we examine?

Look, I get it. He’s the frontrunner for the leadership and he doesn’t want to blow it by attaching himself to some loser policy. But in some ways the policy of not having policies is a loser policy. It might even be the policy of losers.

Listening, consulting and having conversations are important to a point, but we are now so far beyond that point on all the big issues before us today that we’re in another galaxy.

Yes, politicians need to gather input in some situations, but “consulting” is not an end in itself; it’s one of many means to an end. Consult when necessary, but when the facts are clear don’t waste time pretending to gather input; get to work with an actual plan.

Back in the day when our ancestors built Canada, I’m pretty sure they didn’t go on listening tours. At different times we know they elected people who fiercely debated ideas, which is how the country was born. As often as not, they just went and did what needed to be done. They built business empires, opened up vast new territories, assembled armies and created entire new communities.

This is what I don’t understand with the Idle No More movement. Why are some Aboriginal bands enormously successful while others flounder? Is it because some were consulted more? Hardly. Is it because some have resources while others don’t? No.

Actually, some Aboriginal leaders long ago brought economic development, jobs and stability to their communities by, you know, leading. They were Idle No More long before it was a hashtag on Twitter.

That’s not to say Aboriginals don’t have legitimate grievances. Often land claims take too long to resolve, but, shockingly, even under the Harper government many have been resolved, meaning billions of dollars in payouts and millions of acres of land for Aboriginals.

Let’s also remember that Aboriginals have constitutional protections including the “duty to consult” when their lands are affected, which the courts routinely uphold.

Actually, in Canada, a lack of consultation is rarely the issue. More often than not, the real problem at every level is leaders who refuse to lead.

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