Politics farm system

Cautionary lesson for ‘star’ candidates

On May 29, 2019, Toronto Star national columnist Chantal Hébert wrote a column speculating on the scenario of outgoing Bank of England (and former Bank of Canada) Governor Mark Carney returning to Canada, running as a federal Liberal candidate in the fall 2019 federal election, and immediately becoming Liberal Party leader, and possibly Prime Minister, succeeding Justin Trudeau. Honestly, journalists really ought to get out of their ivory campaign buses, talk with real people, and campaign with real candidates more. What more often happens when such ‘star’ candidates get lured into an election with the promise of instant cabinet posts is the experience of two of Justin Trudeau’s first-time MPs who were thrust into cabinet before they even knew how the institution of Parliament and the mechanics of government worked. The Toronto Star published my letter as its lead letter on May 30. It is reproduced below.

Columnist Chantal Hébert speculates about former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney running for Parliament as a Liberal candidate, and then being immediately ready to assume the party leadership. Really? Former first-term Liberal MPs Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will almost certainly lose this year as Independent federal election candidates and unnecessarily end otherwise promising parliamentary careers. They illustrate the media’s fascination with so-called star candidates, who are too often projected into the cabinet skies unprepared, to be shot out of that sky like clay pigeons.

Does your gender, age, race, religion or region really matter when assembling a cabinet? Those attributes, taken alone, are roughly equal to a coat of exterior paint. Perhaps leaders should focus on what actually makes a difference in a minister: managerial talent, legislative experience and communications ability.

Wilson-Raybould and Philpott, as first-term MPs, should have spent their first term learning the rhythms and limits of Parliament, working with stakeholders and Opposition members, and seeing how laws really come together with committee work before being thrust into cabinet roles for which neither was properly prepared. Justin Trudeau’s government benches in Ottawa hold experienced, cabinet-ready talent doing parliamentary secretary, committee and House duty. It takes time for latent government talent to develop and mature.

Carney has never held elected office. Whether he might fare well thrust into a senior political role remains speculative. If he does decide to enter federal politics, one hopes he will get the same opportunity to learn the craft of politics as a promising and talented rookie gets in a pro sports farm system before moving up to the big team.

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Required ID

The ‘foundation’ ID documents everyone needs

As an MPP, I discovered to my shock and horror how many adults, especially those who are older, and those struggling with poverty, simply lacked the identification to show they were who they are, and lived where they did. It cost them money. It cost them the opportunity to vote. It lessened them as people. And it is easy to fix.

Here are the ID documents every person needs to have:

  1. Your Ontario Driver’s License or Ontario Photo ID;
  2. A birth certificate from the province or country where you were born;
  3. An up-to-date Ontario Health Card;
  4. A Canadian Passport;
  5. A Presto Card for transit;
  6. A bank card allowing you access to your account at a teller machine;
  7. If you were born abroad:
    1. Your Canadian landing papers;
    2. Your permanent residency card.

Older adults, especially retirees, are at severe risk of not having their set of ID documents up-to-date. Family members ought to ensure they check whether their parents and grandparents have their foundation identification documents, know where they are, and understand how and when to use them.

Ontario ID

Every adult needs either an Ontario Driver’s License or an Ontario Photo ID card. You cannot have both. Think of the Photo Card as the Ontario ‘non-drivers’ drivers’ license. You need this piece of ID to vote, to board an aircraft for a domestic flight, to get a library card, or to prove who you are at your bank. You should always carry this card.

Your birth certificate

This is your first essential piece of identification. Older Canadians may have only a certificate of baptism. That document is no longer valid for proving you are who you say you are, and you cannot apply for a passport without a government-issued birth certificate. You seldom need to have your birth certificate with you, but you should carefully store this document (with your passport) in a safe place.

Your Ontario Health Card

To receive coverage from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, you need an up-to-date plastic health card, with your picture on it, issued by ServiceOntario. See this page on my web site for more information on how to get an OHIP photo card. The old red-and-white card should no longer be used, and should be upgraded immediately at a ServiceOntario location. You should always carry this card.

Canadian passport

There is no reason not to have a passport. You cannot leave Canada without one. Though this is perhaps the only ‘optional’ piece of ID in the list, because you don’t have to leave Canada, it is a document every Canadian ought to have in the 21st century.

A Presto Card

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area or in the Ottawa area, public transit is moving to adopt the Presto Card. Once you have the Presto Card, here are your benefits:

  • You never need to worry if you have exact change to ride public transit;
  • You always get the best transit fare possible.

Additionally, families can empower their parents and grandparents by linking their own credit or debit card to their parents’ or grandparents’ Presto Card, enabling them to do what you want them to do: get out more. You should always carry this card.

A Canadian bank card

All adults need an account with a Canadian bank or credit union. You need a credit history. You need to be able to have social security, government income tax rebates, and salary cheques automatically deposited. You need an account to be able to save money. Don’t be part of the under-the-table, cash society. Have a bank account, and learn to responsibly use your bank card, and/or credit card. You should always carry this card.

Your Canadian landing papers and PR card

If you were born outside Canada, you (or your parents) received your Canadian landing papers when you first came to Canada. For those born outside Canada, this document is as important as your birth certificate. Keep it in the safe place you keep your passport and your birth certificate. Your Permanent Residency Card (PR Card) proves you are legally entitled to reside in Canada. If you or your parents or grandparents were born outside Canada, and haven’t got your landing papers and PR Card now, make the effort, and locate those very valuable documents. If you are not yet a Canadian citizen, travel outside Canada, and don’t have your PR Card, you won’t be allowed back in.

How do you and your family rate?

Take an evening, and see if you have all the above identification cards. How about your children and grandchildren? More importantly, how about your parents and grandparents, or those you care about? Be prepared to be horrified at what you find out when you begin to ask those around you.

Today's Quote

No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

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