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By John Weston 06 Dec, 2017
What did you think about when you got up this morning? I was putting the finishing touches on a new website. You were doing something else. It’s safe to say that neither of us was thinking about abandoned vessels.

But the saga of this problem, its snarling of government processes, the waste it caused, and the environmental damage - called out for change. Here’s what some of us did - and why persistence and good strategy can pay off to change government policy and make things right.

As Member of Parliament, I saw the blight caused by irresponsible people who dumped their boats like parkland litter. They left a trail of pollution, eyesores, harmful waste, and legal liability. Directionless governments floundered to assert or evade responsibility. In one case, a single person acquired and casually abandoned four separate vessels off the coast of Squamish, B.C.

I introduced Private Member’s Bill C-695 in the House of Commons in 2015, reflecting input from a wide variety of people who cared about the health of our seas, tourism, navigational safety, and saving taxpayers’ funds. The issue seemed intractable, cutting across various departments within the Federal and provincial governments, as well as local government jurisdiction. Governments were loath to take responsibility. Abandoned vessels can be costly to remove and give rise to various types of liability. My Bill proposed for the first time that anyone who intentionally abandoned a vessel be subject to a fine or jail term. It attracted support from mariners, local governments, the Transport Minister, the Conservative Party of Canada, and even my Liberal opponent in the last election.

The Bill didn’t pass - it died with the last Federal Government, in June 2015. But the story has a positive outcome. The current Liberal Government contributed formal funding to deal with the problem. It created a program to educate boat owners how responsibly to manage and recycle their vessels, rather than merely abandon them. And in October of this year, it introduced legislation to do exactly what my bill proposed - make persons accountable for their actions. The new Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act will for the first time make it explicitly illegal to abandon boats, while empowering the government to go after the owners of the 600 derelict vessels already polluting the country’s waterways.
If the bill becomes law, Individuals who abandon a boat can face fines up to $300,000 and a six-month jail term, while corporations can be fined as much as $6 million.

People and companies who share my concerns about government and public affairs should take heart. With perseverance, good strategy, and the collaboration of like-minded allies, you can change even the most complicated of government policies.

I hope readers enjoy a 2018 filled with health and happiness and, before that, a wonderful Christmas. Us? Our family will gather in both Ottawa and West Vancouver to celebrate this special season.
By John Weston 04 Dec, 2017
It’s out of fashion to refer to locker room conversations, after Donald Trump equated them with ballads of sexual assault. In spite of Trump’s demeaning, the locker room is still a place where tough questions get posed. And so it was last week when someone asked in the West Vancouver Swimming Pool changing room what counsel I’d give to be a Member of Parliament.

The question was timely as I join other Canadians on the lookout for people who demonstrate good leadership , both in their current experience and in their potential. I’m particularly keen to see good candidates run to succeed me as the Conservative Candidate for the riding I represented from 2008 through 2015, West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country. But more generally I’m committed to encourage good leadership beyond that specific role, whether in politics, business, faith communities, or families.

And in an era when common discourse delights in the disparagement of leaders, why wouldn’t we all join in a commitment to encourage key values that mould good leaders and support good leaders themselves?

What kind of person would I be looking for who aspires to leadership, as M.P. or in any other role? For me, the short answer is that a person going into leadership should know his or her objectives, identify her or his most important values, and take specific steps to fortify those values in anticipation of upcoming storms.

What storms should you anticipate? As a leader in any realm, but particularly in my experience as a West Coast M.P., expect pressure on your marriage and on your role as a parent. Those pressures should be obvious. Your anticipated responsibilities separate you from the ones you love, in space, time, and energy. The problems of juggling these things against a 5000 kilometer commute are clear but those problems may arise in any demanding leadership role.

As Shakespeare wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” In addition to the pressures on one’s close personal relationships come two other more subtle nemeses. Firstly, persons in leadership encounter challenges to character that come with the territory. Greed, anger, lust, pride, envy, gluttony, and sloth - Augustine’s famous “Seven Sins” can each creep into a leader’s life. Anyone seeking leadership would do well to ensure a level of accountability to reliable role models who can confidentially but firmly keep the leader on a high plane. In my own case, I was fortunate to have three tough-minded men of faith act as my “Three Wise Men” to help ensure that integrity prevailed over politics whenever the two conflicted.

The fourth challenge, most subtle of all, is to ensure the aspiring leader accomplishes more for the people he or she serves by carrying out the position than by doing something else. There’s no point in climbing a ladder if it’s placed against the wrong wall. This question is never easy but may be particularly complicated when non-politicians consider seeking public office.

There are no perfect formulas for answering these questions. In searching for a successor to run for the Conservative Party where I live, I’ll be looking for someone who believes in the Party and the Leader. But I’ll also be looking for someone with values that set apart people who aspire to leadership in any walk of life: values such as those canvassed in my book - On! Achieving Excellence in Public Life: Integrity, Responsibility, Courage, Compassion, Freedom, Equality, Fitness, and Resolve. You may have a different list. But I’m willing to bet you’d agree that we Canadians would all benefit if we took steps to cultivate those values in ourselves and in others. And, don’t forget, though you may not recognize it, you are a leader yourself, as you lead your own life and influence your family, community, and country.

John Weston serves on a committee that is actively seeking people with leadership qualities to run for Member of Parliament in 2019. The photo, by the author, is of the statue to world class sprinter, the later Harry Jerome, in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

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What People Are Saying....

Rod Senft

 Managing Partner, Tricor Pacific Capital Inc.

“As a lawyer myself , I have been on both sides of the solicitor-client equation. I have been on the Management Committee of a Major Law Firm and a client, as Managing Partner of one of Western Canada’s leading Private Equity Funds. I believe clients want a determined, highly skilled professional advocate with well educated mind. Having seen John in action as my Member of Parliament, I know clients will get the benefit of these qualities with him as their lawyer.” 

Sganisim Simaugit 

Chief Mountain 

“My Nisga’a Eagle tribal name is Sganisim Simaugit Sagaween, also known as Chief Mountain.  

I first met John around 1999. He came into my life firstly as a lawyer who represented us in the British Columbia courts with the “Chief Mountain Challenge” to provisions of the Nisga’a Treaty.  

I liked John right away and he soon became a trusted friend. In early 2000 the Chief Mountain Wilp (Tribal House) adopted John as an honorary member of our Tribal Wilp. John’s Tribal House name is “Ama Dax Gadum Algahum Skag” - “Talking Eagle”. 

I believe John Weston is a man with a good heart for everyone. I support and stand beside him with full confidence.”

Mehrdad Rahbar

President, Vernacular Development Corp. 

“From 2009 through 2015, John served as the first ever Canadian Government Liaison to the Canadian-Iranian People. As an active member of our community, during his 6 years in Ottawa, we had real representation and a caring voice not only as an MP but as a friend of our community. I worked along with a handful of other volunteers to guide John in this challenging role."

"John consistently worked hard to learn the needs of our community, made himself readily available, and nimbly drew together governmental and non-governmental groups to create common ground. He made it clear that a client would be fortunate to have John on the team to navigate Government Relations and legal issues.”

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