Ryan Leef
Member of Parliament, Yukon
Open Letter #9
January 2012

Dear Ryan,

Recently, the Conservative Party hired Campaign Research Inc, a polling company, to phone constituents in the Liberal riding of Mount Royal, asking who they would vote for in the upcoming by-election since Liberal MP Irwin Cotler was resigning. This was, of course, a complete lie. But Conservative Party House Leader, Peter Van Loan, defended the practice saying, “What he (Irwin Cotler) is asking you, Mr. Speaker, to do here is prevent people from being able to speak the truth.” Mr. Van Loan went on to declare that this deceitful practice was an exercise in “free speech.” Last year, Conservative operatives at Sun News Network attempted to get the rules changed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to allow false news to be presented as real news under the guise of free speech. (Sun News is headed by Kory Teneycke, VP of development for Quebecor and a former director of communications and chief spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.)

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to work in a poisoned environment understands that toxic individuals and practices flourish only with the permission of management at the highest level. Poison is liquid and flows downhill. The activities described above could only have occurred with the endorsement of the prime minister and his office.

This leads me to the subject of the ninth letter; leadership and a great big, blue-sky-dreaming, New Year’s wish list for 2012.

I am struck with envy by the lucky countries that have great democratic leaders. These stellar men and women provide honest, transparent government, treat the electorate like citizens rather than workers and consumers, and see their role as captains of great ships to be guided safely through channels determined by citizens. So Ryan, I’ve compiled a short list of who I would like as prime minister of Canada. (You might be interested to know that all of the following individuals were elected in countries that have proportional, representational governments.)

The third runner-up is Julia Gillard. Ms. Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Labor Party in 2010. Against continuous energy sector pressure, she has maintained her party’s strong environmental policies. Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) is a carbon tax on businesses and industry. Prime Minister Gillard has said, “The final test is this: are you on the right side of history? And in my experience the judgment of history has a way of speaking sooner than we expect.”

My second runner-up for prime minister of Canada is Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, chairperson of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2005 and current President of the European Council. Shortly after her election, Ms. Merkel was asked about the similarities between herself and former prime minister of England, Margaret Thatcher. Angela Merkel replied, “She was a chemist, I am a physicist.” Often portrayed as dour, I suspect Ms. Merkel has a very dry sense of humour.

Under Ms. Merkel’s stewardship, Germany exceeded its Kyoto commitments for 2012 by 2008 using a carbon credit system. Germany is, even in these troubled economic times, the financial success story of Europe.

“Above all it is important to point out that we can only maintain our prosperity in Europe if we belong to the most innovative regions in the world”: Angela Merkel.

My first choice for prime minister of Canada is Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson who has served as President of Iceland since 1996.

Icelanders, who are progressive and well-educated, use thermal energy for much of their needs. The Althingi, Iceland’s Parliament, is the oldest continuous democracy in the world. Icelanders come from a long line of early adopters. Something you might be interested in knowing is that Iceland has been rewriting its constitution using social media to harvest ideas from Icelanders about how they wish to be governed. They will vote on accepting the new constitution in June of 2012.

In the 2008, President Grímsson, in response to protests by citizens, oversaw Iceland’s refusal to bail out its failed banks and slash public services. In contradiction to the economic wisdom of the time, Iceland is now well on the road to economic recovery. President Grímsson chose the democratic will of the people over the corporate will saying, “This was people power in its purest form, challenging the actions of the government and the parliament over a European financial conflict and inducing the president to exercise his constitutional duty in favour of the democratic will of the people.”

In your remarks in the House of Commons on November 25, you criticized Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift Plan, a greenhouse gas reduction proposal presented during the 2008 election.

Mr. Dion’s fate runs parallel to that of former Progressive Conservative prime minister, Joe Clark, whose fall from grace could be directly linked to telling Canadians the truth about the deficit and offering a plan. Had we been smart enough to ignore the unrelenting Liberal and press ridicule of Mr. Clark in 1980, we would have been spared the inevitable and much worse pain we went through later when Liberal Paul Martin made deep cuts to services to clear our debt. So too, Mr. Dion provided us with a well thought-out, sensible and fair solution to the problem of reducing our environmental footprint.

Mr. Clark, in his later years, proved to have the oratorical gifts and charisma we were told he lacked. Watching Mr. Dion ignore the jeers in the House of Commons as he stolidly defended his Green Shift plan makes me wonder who has the shine that could withstand the relentless character assassination he was subjected to.

Dirty tricks and slander are undermining our democracy by clouding our understanding of what is really at stake in policy decisions. And it is corporate interests, not citizens’, that benefit from this situation. We will never have the opportunity to find out if either Mr. Clark or Mr. Dion could have gone on to become admirable and capable prime ministers. That is our loss.

May your time in Ottawa be constructive and may you always walk on the high road.

Respectfully yours,

Linda Leon

Linda Leon

Linda Leon is an artist and writer living in Whitehorse.