Political leadership and staying in touch

Reader discusses elected leaders and the validity of information they receive.

Dear Editor,

Because politicians and other leaders are chosen by an electorate to forge a direction for a country or an organization, they wield much more power than the vast majority of us individually. By their election, they have authority to act in a way none of us would presume to even think of. What they say at times is taken as truth, especially by those around them. Indeed, what would a minister in cabinet or a politician’s administrative assistant question or argue with a leader or their political boss once he or she has spoken? You wonder, therefore, if people with that amount of power receive realistic, helpful and honest information or feedback from those within their leadership bubble. My guess is once a leader has made up his or her mind, subordinates would rarely question that leader.

Take for example the Greek financial crisis, which started after Wall Street imploded in 2008. To quote the New York times, “with global financial markets still reeling, Greece announced in October 2009 that it had been understating its deficit figures for years, raising alarms about the soundness of Greek finances. “Which one of his staff would have questioned the Greek minister of finance about the morality of this misrepresentation?

Another example: Premier Notley, who was the former opposition critic for the environment, recently mentioned that the former PC government had misrepresented the details of pollution from fossil fuels. “A good deal of the hostility we face” she said, “is nobody trusts what we say about the issue.” She was responding to the fact that the old PC government claimed it was an international leader in environmental protection, which given their misrepresentation is highly questionable.

General Tom Lawson, the retiring head of the Canadian military commented recently that men are hard wired to press themselves up against women. No one in the military hierarchy, I suggest, would have challenged the general about his unfounded views.

When we look at the advisors that have come or gone in Prime Minister Harper’s office, one wonders what differences of opinion existed between he and subordinates. “He’s lost so many people, it’s kind of sad. We were good friends,” notes Tom Flanagan, an advisor in the early years.

In those early years of his government, a CBC report notes that Mr. Harper’s “staff often included lawyers, professors and business executives. Others had worked for previous prime ministers, and possessed an institutional memory of parliament and a well-honed sense of what to learn from past political mistakes. ….. His former campaign manager, Senator Doug Finley, and former finance minister Jim Flaherty were ….not afraid to stand up to” the prime minister.

None of these level headed and experienced advisors now exist and one wonders who is now brave enough to share with the prime minister information that is contrary to his perception of the world.

George Jason.