Sunday, September 14, 2008

Victor Ruminates on the differences between Politics and Politicians in the Excites States and Canerda

The Sarah Palin competence controversy provides an exiting opportunity
for Canadians to examine the role that competence plays in the
selection of Cabinet Ministers in this country.

Those with a minimal knowledge of Canadian politics understand that
there are four criteria for selecting Cabinet Ministers. These are:

Region, plurality, gender and ethnicity. Competence for the Cabinet
portfolio, which is an executive portfolio often involving billions in
spending authority, is an unintended and rare consequence of this

Before briefly explaining how these four selection criteria are
applied for selecting Cabinet Ministers, we should acknowledge that
competence is not always a leading factor in selecting a Prime Minister.

Look at Pierre Trudeau. When he became PM at age 48 he had 3 years of
political experience. Prior to that he lectured briefly and edited an
obscure policy pamphlet in Quebec. As for his foreign affairs
experience, it consisted of backpacking around the world well into his
30's, an age when the rest of us had a job. He famously wore a Nazi
helmut during WW2 and fawned over Castro and Mao. We should brag.

In terms of the criteria for selecting a Cabinet, it works as follows.

In Cabinet selections, a PM needs regional balance and plurality means
that a dummy from a big constituency gets the nod over a Rhodes
scholar from a small one. Gender selection and Ethnicity require no

Let's look at the results of this process.

Region: How about Max Bernier, the biker chick boinker from Quebec
elevated to international relations.

Gender. Can you say Hedi Frye?

Ethnicity: Dosanjh can glide from party to party assured of a Cabinet
post. Ditto Raymond Chan, another Mensa luminary

As for plurality being a determinant, it's hard to top the career of
Sheila Copps.

Ms. Copps did nothing before entering politics other than have the
good fortune of being sired by a popular Mayor of Hamilton. She made
her name in Opposition as a member of the so-called Rat pack. Her most
famous exploit in that phase of her career, proudly described in her
biography, consisted of crawling in fury across a finance committee
table to intimidate John Crosbie. If I saw Ms. Copps massive butt
crawling at speed in my direction, I too would be intimidated.

She became Deputy Prime Minister. The PM in this country has far more
executive powers than the President of the United States. Scampering
Sheila was a heartbeat away from the job.

Another member of the Rat Pack was Brian Tobin, later touted by many
as a Prime Minister in waiting. Prior to being elected at 24, he spent
2 years as a disc jockey at a 5000 watt radio station. I'm impressed.

So while Canadians smugly sniff around the competence issue in other
countries, we maintain a blissful or willful ignorance about how we
elevate people to powerful Cabinet posts here at home.

Maybe with two elections in the next 7 months, it would be a good time
to start. But we won't .

Victor Godin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear Victor. I particularly agree with you on Raymond Chan, whom I was acquainted with when he "worked" (he spent most of his time furthering his political ambitions in fact) at TRIUMF. Every time I see this little weasel's face on TV I must immediately change stations.