• There is a persistent, contra-intuitive, rogue management rule: If it’s not broken — break it.

    The argument being that “old think” digs one deeper into comfortable, but not necessarily effective, ruts. Breaking the mold forces all concerned into “new think,” which will be more productive. Unfortunately, all too frequently, for those creative, break-the-mold CEO-inspired ideas, there is a catastrophic consequence.

    Thus has will be the result from the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) which is proving to be a tar pit into which an ideologically inspired U.S. government executive branch is slave-driving the United States population.

    And one can almost hear the Administration muttering the classic mantra of bad planning, “When I undertook to drain the swamp, I didn’t plan in being up to my ass in alligators.”

    [ David Kilgour: Canadian system can no longer be viewed as a point of pride ]

    U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the Affordable Care Act in Largo, Maryland. Because what is now in process in the United States is massive restructuring of roughly one-sixth of the

    Read More »from Health care: American system prior to Obama’s nuclear intervention was fine
  • Canadians have an enormous attachment, almost equivalent to national self-definition, in our universal health care system. Life expectancy in Canada has risen since 1950 a full decade from 69 to 79. Girls born today can expect to live to 83; boys, 79, partly thanks to our health system. Its genesis was Swift Current, Saskatchewan, in 1947, when residents created the first public health care insurance program on the continent. Health care in the town was thereafter a public service, not something purchased in the market.

    A year later, Premier Tommy Douglas of what is today the New Democratic Party extended the Swift Current model to the entire province. A decade later, Liberal Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent introduced North America’s first national hospital insurance plan; his successor, Progressive Conservative John Diefenbaker, applied a new law to all health services in hospitals across the country.

    The best health care system? Live a healthy lifestyle. The cost savings of Canada’s single-insurer vs. the American multiple insurer

    Read More »from Health care: Canada’s system can no longer be considered a point of pride
  • U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

    “Leadership” is ambiguous and amorphous. It is impressionistic and situational. Trying to define it transmutes, philosophically, into definitions of “great men” and the argument whether history is made by individuals or by implacable sociopolitical forces.

    Today, Canada and the United States suffer a dearth of leadership — or not. Perhaps the leaders that we have are the leaders that we want and, therefore, the leaders we deserve. Or that our leaders suffer more from a dearth of “followership” than shortcomings of their own.

    Certainly, we do not have a “one leader fits all” circumstance. And surely we have multiple examples where the Peter Principle demonstrates that success or strong leadership in one area is inadequate and failure in different situations.

    [ David Kilgour: Leadership: In the end, it's up to the electorate to choose their leaders ]

    Many of us think of leadership first on the battlefield.

    For example, the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, has a statue of

    Read More »from David Jones: We get the leaders we deserve at the time
  • Before, and certainly since the First World War, universal suffrage democracy became the only legitimate form of governance for a large part of the world. The list of national leaders whom most democrats everywhere admire today includes Mandela, Churchill, Gandhi, both Roosevelts, Vaclev Havel, and Aung San Suu Kyi.

    They and many other leaders, including national, provincial and municipal figures across Canada, won the trust and votes of fellow citizens through whatever combination of leadership qualities were attractive to particular electorates at given periods.

    At the other end of the leadership spectrum are brutal despots, such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot and Mugabe, with many other political leaders falling somewhere between the two groupings of the best and the worst.

    [ David Jones: We get the leaders we deserve at the time ]

    Many Canadians appear to think we are suffering today from a crisis of leadership, but rather than saying, “Too many leaders are failing.”

    Read More »from David Kilgour: In the end, it's up to voters to choose their leaders
  • The Senate expense scandal continues to resonate across the country.

    For some, Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau represent scapegoats for a lifestyle of entitlement and abuse practiced for decades in the unloved upper house.

    For others, they represent a national shift of mood towards transparency, no longer allowing any politicians to spend taxpayer dollars for private or purely partisan purposes. A former MP proposes that a public inquiry led by Sheila Fraser would soon get to the bottom of things with due process.

    Frequently forgotten in the media accounts is that most senators from both political parties currently represented in the red chamber (Tory and Liberal) don’t abuse expense accounts and do conscientious and largely unreported work on a wide range of public issues in Senate committees.

    The underlying cause of senatorial dysfunction might well be the essentially bizarre nature of our Senate as a legislative body. A visiting parliamentarian once burst out laughing when told how

    Read More »from Senate scandal: Let’s use this opportunity to change how Red Chamber works
  • The ongoing imbroglio over the Canadian Senate has more facets than a kaleidoscope. With every twist a new pattern appears to emerge — only to disappear into dissonance with the next turn of events.

    One hesitates to put a (premature) label to it:

    • A molehill on its way to becoming a mountain? Or a media extravaganza driven by an absence of interest in real politico-social issues?
    • An analogue to a Nixonian-style Watergate featuring “What did you know and when did you know it” testimony questioning?
    • A stimulus for defining reform of the Senate?

    We can be sure, however, that the extended parliamentary recess and a “reset” Throne Speech have failed to throw sufficient lime into the Senate cesspool to kill the stench.

    The Throne Speech was a three-day wonder that has promptly passed from the minds of even those initially paying attention. Instead, it is all-Senate-all-the-time:

    • Who gave Senator Duffy how much money to do what?
    • Who do you believe in the the PM Harper or Senator Duffy “he said; he
    Read More »from Senate scandal: Reforming the upper house an unlikely proposition
  • Doomsayers depicted the United States at the edge of a fiscal cliff waiting for salvation from “Godot.” Ostensibly, we didn’t know whether there was a safe path downward, a hang-glider to waft us away, or whether we would plunge into the abyss.

    But the bullet was dodged; “Pauline” escaped the oncoming railroad train.

    Nobody, however, should believe the three-month extension of U.S. government operations and the debt ceiling is a solution. Not even an armistice; it is more of a re-loading break. And anyone expecting positive results from the bipartisan conference addressing major fiscal issues by mid-December is deliberately delirious.

    There are two facets to continuing confrontation: government spending and the debt ceiling. But the existential issues are politics within both Democratic and Republican parties.

    [ David Kilgour: A temporary agreement is better than no agreement at all ]

    House Speaker House John Boehner may be replaced before the next debt crisis. The Shutdown. The government shutdown — no matter how long it persisted — was a domestic problem. Only

    Read More »from U.S. debt crisis: Three-month extension is merely a re-loading break
  • Despite the eleventh-hour temporary deal in Congress, many of us who are America’s friends are still shaking our heads at the partial government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis during recent weeks. What has gone wrong with reason and political civility in the capital of a nation known for so long as the world’s good governance beacon on a hill?

    The two issues might have sparked a global economic crisis if the American government had reached its current debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion today. If Congress had not raised the ceiling, the Treasury would have had only $30 billion in working capital left to pay its bills, which meant that the country would probably have defaulted on loans for the first time since 1790, when it first borrowed money.

    The Economist magazine noted that the Treasury would run out of room to shuffle money around to meet its obligations: “Soon after, the government may or may not be able to delay payments to contractors, pensioners and other claimants, so as to avoid

    Read More »from U.S. debt crisis: A temporary agreement is better than no agreement at all
  • Sometimes, when observing Quebec versus Rest-of-Canada interaction, an American may note with amusement, “They really know how to push each other’s buttons!”

    And thus, during what otherwise would be a middling summer dominated domestically by Senate financial improprieties and internationally by whether/not Syrians used chemical weapons, we have an imbroglio over the “Charter of Quebec Values.”

    But rather than being a mechanism to suppress societal multiculturalism, the Charter appears designed to regulate the action of Quebec civil servants for public benefit. And, in such regard, the Quebec government appears to have sociocultural and even legal right on its side.

    That such a still nascent document could generate intense reactions speaks both to the underlying insecurity of many Francophone Quebeckers and hostility from those for whom any intimation of Quebec separatism must be cudgeled.

    [ David Kilgour: PQ playing a dangerous game of identity politics ]

    Consequently, we read the

    Read More »from Quebec values charter: Government has legal right on its side
  • Pauline Marois, Quebec’s 30th premier, is Canada’s dubious Femme de l’Heure. Touted on the one hand for playing a masterful game of identity politics, her remarks have tended to create considerable angst in the minds of those who think otherwise.

    In an interview in early September during which she contrasted secularism in France to multiculturalism in Britain, her inclusion of a reference to recent homegrown terrorist attacks invoked a lot of criticism: ”In England, they get into fights and throw bombs at one another because of multiculturalism ... people get lost in that kind of society.”

    The current controversy regarding the proposed Quebec “values” charter is the continuation of a process of secularization and religious neutrality in public institutions which began decades ago. The Parti Québécois explains the need for this charter by stating that in the 1960s, the Catholic Church agreed to step out of the education and health fields, and that now there is a need for new restrictions

    Read More »from Quebec values charter: PQ playing a dangerous game of identity politics

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