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Open Letter to Ryan Leef, MP for Yukon

Dear Ryan,

Stephen Harper once bragged that we wouldn’t recognize Canada by the time he was through with it. And it certainly seems like he has accomplished his task. Canadians are no longer citizens, but consumers and taxpayers. We keep our eyes on narrow self-interest while buying into the notion that anything that regulates those interests or implies social responsibility, either on a local or international level, is “unfair.” If the tone of Conservative attack ads is a measure of how most Canadians think, why then we must be a nation of people who admire bullies.

So what happened to the idea of citizenship with its associated responsibilities to our communities, our nation and the planet? In the 70s, Canadians rallied to welcome and care for the Vietnamese boat people. We were, at the time, the very best we could be.

Now we don’t honour our international commitments and we’ve turned our charities into subsidies for Canadian corporations working abroad. And while impoverished Greece is giving aid to desperate refugees from Syria, our none-is–too-many immigration policies see us turning our backs. What happened? 

When Calgary was flooded in 2013, gangs of helpers roamed neighbourhoods, pitching in wherever needed. Why? Mayor Naheed Nenshi suggested that neighbours helping neighbours was a good idea.  

That is what leadership looks like, Ryan. And that is what is lacking in our currant government.

True leaders don’t see every crisis as an opportunity to manipulate public opinion or enact policies that might otherwise be regarded as repugnant. Great leadership is about inspiration and not manipulation at all. Mayor Nenshi’s actions during the flood were not driven by political expediency. Good leaders focus on what is best for their constituency. Great leaders do the same with a prescient eye to the future and the courage to act for the benefit of those not yet born.

Leadership is not the same as bullying although many people confuse meanness with strength. Good leaders respect and consider all of their constituents and not just their supporters. Good leaders find it easy to be open and truthful. Good leaders do not hide in the closet when the going gets tough.

We do not elect Prime Ministers, Ryan. We elect our Members of Parliament.

But MPs have a tough row to hoe in Canada. Too much power is concentrated in the leadership of political parties (and Prime Minister’s Office). Only rare individuals, like Michael Chong, who managed to get his Reform Bill passed in spite of obstacles, have the genius necessary to successfully swim against the will of party leadership. Yet citizens still expect their MPs to represent their interests first. 

How did you do?

You sent us taxpayer-funded propaganda in the form of 10 percenters. But you refrained from sending us the vicious attack ads, also paid for out of the public purse, that many of your colleagues sent. For that I am grateful.

You proposed an excellent bill to help people with FASD in trouble with the courts. But you withdrew it using flimsy excuses and then attacked Larry Bagnell for offering to bring it in. Bagnell worked hard on FASD policy when he was our MP. If you genuinely cared about individuals with FASD, you could have collaborated with him on this worthy project.

In the House of Commons, you willingly read speeches written for you by political operatives and parroted Conservative Party catch phrases. As time went on, your behaviour became increasingly aggressive towards political opponents and fawning towards conservative colleagues.   

(I’ve always wondered why MPs do that. Few constituents pay attention to the House so it can’t be to impress the home crowd.) 

With a few exceptions, you supported every bill put forward, all of the omnibus bills including those that shredded environmental protections in Canada, and Bill C-51, the use-terrorism-as-an-excuse-to-spy-on-Canadians-and-create-a-secret-police bill. You sat on the Committee of Fisheries and Oceans when environmental protections for Yukon waterways were removed. You supported Bill S-6, which removed the arms length status of the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board. You were silent on the attacks on CBC and on the muzzling of scientists. Most troubling of all, you supported the unamended version of the Unfair Elections Act, which would have disenfranchised thousands of voters outright. 

This is my last letter to you. I don’t hate you Ryan. But I don’t think you have the skill, wisdom or strength of character to be a good leader. 

So it is time for us both to move on. I wish you well in whatever vocation you pursue in the future, as long as it is not in politics.


Linda Leon

P.S. I have agreed to report on the election in the Yukon for My first questions to all of the candidates have to do with their employment histories: 

When and where did you serve as an RCMP Officer? Why did you leave the force? How many years did you serve? How long were you a Conservation Officer for YTG? How long were you an outfitter with Ruby Range? What other forms of employment have you had?

Linda Leon is not now, nor has she ever been a member of any federal political party. 

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Linda Leon

Linda Leon is an artist and writer living in Whitehorse.