Where have all our leaders gone?

In this era of spin doctors, corporate media conglomerates, focus groups and incessant polling, we seldom hear politicians speak the truth. Political statements are usually restricted to what the powers that be in that particular political party have determined to be the issue of the day. As a result it feels like the information coming out of our political process has gone through multiple washing cycles and only arrives at our door once sanitized.

Imagine my surprise when I read Eric Kieran’s obituary. Unlike the carefully scripted, poll-tested statements I have come to expect, particular from the Federal liberals, this feisty former academic, business executive and cabinet minister seemed to break the mold and describe things as they actually were, not how our elites wished them to be.

Unlike our current federal and provincial leaders (particularly out west) he rejected the belief that Canada should continue to build its economy on commodity exports.

The Globe states, “But in at least one area, Mr. Kierans remained constant. Canada, he said, had to stop selling its resources at bargain basement prices if it wanted to keep its Independence and its wealth. This, more than anything else, provided the impetus for his political career and continued to be his concern long after he left political office.”

Now Mr. Kieran’s political career was before my time, so he may have been involved in things or stood for beliefs I abhor. I don’t know.

What I do know is that politicians like Mr. Kierans are rare today. In this neo-conservative era of privatization, globalization, and corporate subsidies, when was the last time you heard a political leader confront a powerful resource industry lobby and reject their proposals in order to recommend strengthening public ownership of resources.

In 1973, while authoring a report for the Manitoban government , Kieran was confronted with the mining industry’s assertion that his proposal to protect public resources from private exploitation was “communist.” In response Kierans said, “It is not a question of capitalism or socialism…The landlords of Manitoban resources are Manitobans.”

Kieran’s sensible advice to build our economy by adding value to our resources has been ignored. Instead, federal and provincial politicians promote subsidies and reduced environmental and labour protections to cut resource industry costs, and promote high-volume, low-value exports at bargain basement prices. As resource towns from Youbou, Gold River, Port Alice, and Barriere can attest, this leaves workers, communities and the environment up to the whims of corporate officers often in offices in other parts of the world.

I can’t think of a current politician who has consistently spoken out against In this approach.

Canadians deserve better from our political leaders. However, expectations, like promises, are worth little in politics. Things won’t improve unless we come together and work collectively to demand change. Our collective future depends on it. Join Dogwood Initiative and lets get started.

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