For whom the bell tolls

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, democracy just doesn’t work. In its purest form, the will of the people can, and quite often will, lead us astray. That is why we have political parties and why those parties, in turn, have leaders.

The idea of a grassroots party, a party truly of the people, is too romantic to dislike. Yet, the whole Stockwell Day fiasco is a prime example of why "career" politicians invariably end up at the helm. A man who previously led little more than a congregation was democratically hoisted by the hallowed grassroots to the top of the Canadian Alliance ladder. Now, as he falls from grace, he’s hitting his head on every single rung.

The problem doesn’t lie so much in his passion, his policies or his pursuit of power. The problem, plain and simple, is inexperience. A leader is not necessarily someone who inspires or breaks ground, but more an individual who looks good, delegates effectively and surrounds himself with people who know what they’re doing.

Look at Ralph Klein: he’s a populist doughboy with a grade 10 education who’s being hailed for his work left, right and center. He’s no genius and he knows it, so he surrounded himself with top-notch strategists and spin doctors (props to Rod Love) and had the presence of mind to do what they told him. His job is to be the jolly fat man, not unlike Santa, who connects with the commoners. His strategists run the province and make him look good.

If only Stock could have learned a thing or two from Ralph.

Brought in as a fresh new face for a fresh new party, the wetsuit-wearing wonder was dismantled brilliantly by King Chrétien and his team of veteran tacticians. Just like any predator, a political strategist smells fresh meat a mile away and is quick to devour the unwitting newcomer.

If Stock had half a clue, his first order of business would have been to recruit the best and brightest from the Klein and Harris administrations and have a weekly dinner date with Preston Manning so he would be prepared to weather the inevitable Liberal storm. He didn’t do this and the result was a disorganized campaign, no gains for his party at the ballot box and an onslaught of dissent and criticism from within.

The biggest mistake one can make observing this whole debacle is to absolve Day of responsibility, just as he claims he can’t control what others do. Strong leaders, or at the very least shrewd ones, know how to keep dissent under wraps and keep the infighting within the party. Remember the supposed coup d’état by Paul Martin? What came of it? Nothing. Chrétien and Martin had the wherewithal to put on a happy face for the cameras and eventually it all went away.

During the Canadian Alliance leadership race, Preston Manning warned party members against Day’s inexperience. Now that the CA has more fissures and factions than the former Yugoslavia, Manning’s choice to jump ship at the first sign of a leak stands as the only sound political decision made by any Alliance MP in recent memory.

Lawrence Bailey can be reached at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.