Comments on: Listen up! Women in politics | Commentary – Huntsville Doppler

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Hugh Mackenzie

Several weeks ago, after having written a column in which I was critical of the federal Conservative Party, a regular reader, one who seldom agrees with me, commented that I should consider the Green Party. She may well have said it ‘tongue in cheek’ but she came closer to the mark than she might have imagined.

Although I once voted Liberal, until very recently if the time came that I could not support federal Conservatives (and no, that has not yet happened), the Green Party would have been my second choice. Sadly, however, they are self-destructing.

 The Toronto Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein said it best:

“Canadian Greens were originally fiscally conservative environmentalists. Now their big issue (at least according to party executives) appears to be hating Israel and kneecapping their own leader heading into a widely expected September election. Well done!”

In my view, there is much to admire about Annamie Paul. She is Canadian-born, a lawyer who attended both the University of Ottawa and Princeton. She comes from a diverse background and to the best of my knowledge leans much more to fiscal conservatism than she does to socialist idealism. Of course, first and foremost, she is an ardent defender of the environment.

She is also determined to lead on her own terms and not those dictated from the back room of her party, many of whom did not support her in the first place. That includes the Green Party’s interim president Liana Canton Cusmano. She is Annamie Paul’s chief antagonist, the person trying to run her out, not just as leader, a post she has held for less than a year, but also out of the Green Party itself. These individuals have not given their leader a chance to succeed.

This self-imposed chaos in a fractured party will quite likely result in a poor showing for the Green Party in the pending federal election. Certainly, it will do nothing to help them. And, of course, those in the back room will blame their leader for this, when it is they who have prevented her from being able to effectively lead.

In a recent editorial, the Toronto Star said this:

“The only positive to be found in the [Green] party’s sad spiral into irrelevance is the conduct of its embattled leader, Annamie Paul.  Attacked by the left fringe of the Green movement, undermined by many in her own ranks, and abandoned by one of her party’s three MPs, Paul showed she’s prepared to fight her corner with determination and dignity.”

In the same editorial, the Star also commented:

“When she emerged as Green leader Paul seemed like a breath of fresh air in Canadian politics, and it seemed possible the party would offer a new, constructive choice on the federal scene. But the Greens themselves seem determined to strangle that possibility in its cradle. Right now they’re on a hiding to nowhere, and it will take a minor miracle to avoid a total crack-up.”

While I admire the tenacity of Annamie Paul in the face of such adversity, I wonder why she puts up with it, especially when it may well lead to yet another capable woman being forced off of the political stage.

I also wonder why the Conservatives, like the Liberals who took advantage of the chaos in the Green Party to woo one of its MPs, have not sought out Ms. Paul for a senior position on their team.

Unless there is something about her of which I am unaware, she would be a huge asset. She would not undermine their important fiscal policies and she would greatly strengthen a currently weak platform and reputation for Conservatives on the environment and the urgency of dealing with climate change. She would represent both diversity and strength of character.

Interestingly, I have mentioned this idea to a couple of folks in the Conservative Party who have internal influence and have not heard a peep back.

I happen to agree with the Toronto Star on this one. To me, Annamie Paul is a breath of fresh air in Canadian politics. She should not simply disappear off of the political stage.

I have been told that her style is too aggressive for a political leader, but my experience in both business and politics has made me recognize the reality that in both venues women need to be aggressive in order to survive and succeed. That’s just the way it is. Under these circumstances, aggressiveness becomes an asset and not a liability.

In my view, we need more strong and qualified women in politics. Too many of them, for one reason or another, just seem to go away. In recent years, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Dr Jane Philpott, both women of leadership potential, resigned from the Trudeau cabinet on matters of principle. Catherine McKenna, currently a Liberal cabinet minister and a well-qualified one, is leaving politics because she believes she can accomplish more for the environment on the outside than she can as a Member of Parliament and Minister of the Crown. A shocking statement.

As for the Conservatives, women have left there too, most notably former Interim leader Rona Ambrose, quite likely because of roadblocks to effective opportunity and success. And now, of course, when a woman who is seen as a “breath of fresh air” on the Canadian political scene, there is a move to undermine, discredit, and remove her.

To add insult to injury, one of the most qualified individuals, man or woman, ever to be appointed as Governor General of Canada is being subjected to the indignity of being investigated because she is only completely fluent in one of Canada’s two official languages. Will she too be forced to resign? I can think of at least one former Governor General who had a very limited ability in English, but he was male.

As Annamie Paul has said, the political arena is not a walk in the park. She is right on that. It is a blood sport. But it is an arena in which women have many important qualities to bring to the table. It is a place where they have an important role to play. It is a place where they should be encouraged to be.

Real equality means just that. We need more capable women in politics.

We also need to roll away the barriers that prevent this from happening.

Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.

Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.

In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.

Currently Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.

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