Lighting People's Hearts on Fire

  • By John Weston
  • 02 Mar, 2016
Leading up to the Conservative National Convention, to be held in Vancouver May 27-29, 2016, I provided the following recommendations. Lighting Canadians’ Hearts on Fire - The Three Main Questions Question #1: What are we doing more effectively to encourage grassroots participation in our Party and in government, by people generally, but especially by our youth? Our post mortem of the election loss must include the challenge for us to accept that the defeat was not just about “anyone but Harper”
Leading up to the Conservative National Convention, to be held in Vancouver May 27-29, 2016, I provided the following recommendations.
Lighting Canadians’ Hearts on Fire - The Three Main Questions
Question #1: What are we doing more effectively to encourage grassroots participation in our Party and in government, by people generally, but especially by our youth?
Our post mortem of the election loss must include the challenge for us to accept that the defeat was not just about “anyone but Harper” but about a broken party model that left many MPs and candidates isolated and virtually powerless.  Without real engagement, in real time across the Party, MPs and our leadership were left dangerously out of touch during both our term in government and during the campaign.
In Government, we heard constantly that the Leader and the PMO were “controlling”, that MP’s were muzzled.  In fact, for most contemporary liberal democratic parties, including ours, the party policy process did not promote cooperation but was rooted in district by district  resolutions or in limited participation by relatively isolated MPs.  This process actively discouraged the kind of collaboration that is commonplace in today’s social media-driven society.  Canadians were left feeling disengaged from the leadership, from their MP’s, and from the decisions that affected them, e.g., Canada’s economic situation.
The nature of “engagement” for individuals in today’s society has changed dramatically while our party structure and processes are rooted in a previous era.  Today technology promotes/demands collaboration and is driving rapid change through “frenemies” and other forms of joint effort.  Those technologies should drive us to live less in our geographic village and more with the villages of similar interest nationally and internationally, while promoting best practices among elected leaders.
The past weaknesses which afflicted Party management included:
old voter technology versus today’s metadata analysis with emphasis on centralized control of information over distributed analysis and action;too isolated a party and government policy process;too driven by message constraints;too limited a use of the valuable resources available at the local party ever and beyond, which magnifies the problem of too few volunteers;little use of best practices shared among MPs and candidates;diminished motivation for MPs/candidates to develop comprehensive networks of stakeholder groups that should be the norm in every riding.
Recommendations that relate to Question #1 are grouped under Appendix #1.
Question #2:  For what values do we stand that distinguish our Party from the other parties?
During my service as MP, my team knew that, to accomplish something beyond the ordinary in public life, we had consistently to acknowledge, articulate, and observe Conservative Party values: Freedom, Responsibility, Equality, Compassion and Integrity.
We accomplished a great deal because we governed ourselves consistently by these values.  Such an explicitly proclaimed set of values can also provide a litmus test against which  the Leader or any person in the Party can measure proposals and decisions.  The Party as a whole can do the same and the response from the public will likely be as positive and productive as it was in our riding (at least, as measured by results during my two terms: engagement with over 50 identified communities; two Private Members’ Bills passed; three more at First Reading; four items from our riding in Budget 2015; Samara Canada’s highest rated website two years running).
In the future, the Conservative Party of Canada must incorporate and portray higher principles and standards of conduct than in the past if we are to succeed in making politics more deserving of the public’s respect and support.  We can best do this by communicating and acting clearly in accordance with the values mentioned above and governing with integrity in every aspect of our polices and responsibilities.  Today in the US, Bernie Sanders is campaigning precisely based on values he has followed for decades.  And this has achieved an incredible degree of success - especially with youth.
While the ability to develop successful strategies and tactics remains at the forefront of our next leaders qualifications, a clear set of values must also be a major ingredient in his or her character.  Such values throughout the Party are increasingly important in this digital, mobile age wherein the leader is likely more absent from than present with team members.
Selecting an overall leader with both these credentials will then enable the Party to exercise the same standards in selecting other leaders and making decisions right down to the grassroots level.
Our challenge is to distinguish our Party from other parties in a clear, positive way by “being” the specified values, rather than just espousing them.
Recommendations that relate to Question #2 are grouped under Appendix #2.
Question #3:  What is our long-term vision for a united, prosperous Canada?
To ensure Canada remains united and prosperous, we need to cling to our Party’s leadership in economic affairs, in which former Prime Minister Harper excelled; promote innovative, effective heath care; enact viable, compassionate policies on drug use; and show we really care about the environment.  In doing so, we must not forget the absolute significance of the “social contract” which stitches together all the incredible varieties of people in this great land.
Foremost among the responsibilities under the “social contract” is the need to provide a long-term vision to bring together Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Canadians.  No longer are Canadians prepared to allow Aboriginal people to be treated as second class citizens.  Failure to deal with this reality risks Canada’s ability to survive as a nation, politically and economically.
Beginning with Stephen Harper’s groundbreaking Residential Schools Apology, we made significant strides but the successes fell short of a long-term vision for the country.  Knowledgeable Canadians recognize that Liberal and Conservative administrations have both failed to articulate what key principles ought consistently to underlie Govenment actions in this relationship. 
While in office each party has “gone along to get along”.  This has been leadership by expediency, resulting in a patchwork of arrangements between the Government of Canada an the over 600 Aboriginal communities that define themselves as First Nations.  In that vacuum, the Supreme Court of Canada has yielded to the temptation to forge law and policy which ought to have remained in the purview of the legislature.
The lack of leadership from Ottawa has invited First Nations leaders to push boundaries in terms of their rights and title while a multitude of lawyers, consultants, accountants, economists, and embedded bureaucrats not only benefited from this confusion but have also helped perpetuate it.
A Government’s primary role in Aboriginal Affairs is to seek principled avenues of managing the long-term relationship; the specific responses should then follow.
Our Government needs to articulate and act in accordance with six key principles which reflect the needs of Aboriginal people and all Canadians; principles so compelling that they will stand the test of time, and the inevitable occasional change in ruling parties.  These principles are: Self-Sufficiency; Certainty; Accountability; Transparency; Equality; and Reconciliation.
Recommendations that relate to Question #3 are grouped under Appendix #3.
Lighting Canadians’ Hearts on Fire - Specific Recommendations
Appendices #1, #2, and #3
What Can Be Done at the Convention?
At the Convention, the Party should consider running a series of small forums seeking answers from delegates to these three big questions.  I would welcome the opportunity to participate, in some capacity.  I am pleased to say that my EDA, West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country, and our EDA President, Roger Garriock, have endorsed the following 19 Recommendations, for consideration at the National Convention.
Appendix #1  Engagement, Democracy, and Empowering MP’s 
Question #1: What are we doing more effectively to encourage grassroots participation in government, especially by our youth?
1.       It is resolved that we add to our National Party Constitution, a new paragraph 10.7: “The Leader of the Conservative Party will serve as party leader for no more than 8 years after being appointed Prime Minister.”
(Note: With thanks to MP Michael Chong for his help in developing this recommendation)
2.       It is resolved that “The Conservative Party adopt a business-oriented approach to the job description for candidates and Conservative MP’s requiring them to formulate a business plan using a consistent framework reflecting community priorities as identified through community consultation AND THAT MP’s and candidates be provided a forum, such as National Caucus, to brief fellow Caucus members on best practices and developments relating to such a business plan.”
3.       Recommend a new policy statement under Section K: “Social Policy” to include a new Section- “Youth”: “It be resolved that the Conservative Party create a strong youth sector and emphasize that young people are welcome to participate in the Party in any way they see fit AND THAT each Conservative MP or Candidate develop a strategy to engage youth in their riding AND THAT the Party support University Campus Clubs and other school initiatives such as HEY (“Helping Every Youth”) Day, and the MP Book Award for Writing.”
4.       Recommend a new policy statement be added under Section 138: “Policy Development Principles” to read: “It be resolved that nomination contests be conducted well in advance in order to provide candidates time for training.”
5.       Recommend a new policy statement be added under Section 138: “that Regional Caucus Chairs be elected by each respective regional caucus.”
6.       Recommend a new policy statement be added under Section A- “Role of Government” to read: “Parliamentary Committees and Question Period”. “It be resolved that the Conservative Party should broadly endorse that the committee system be reviewed and improved to reflect a need for greater productivity, incorporating a study of best practices in relevant jurisdictions AND THAT the head of each Committee should be empowered to work with Committee members to design clear and measurable goals for the Committee to purse AND THAT Committees should be tasked to respond to real questions that need to be answered in the process of implementing laws or policies and that the Conservative Party should broadly endorse the above-mentioned review and incorporate of study of best practices in relevant jurisdictions and that the format should be restructured to encourage more fluid discussion enabling those with specific expertise to lead such discussions.”
7.       Recommend a new policy statement be added to Section A- “Role of Government”: Parliamentary Committees and Question Period. “It be resolved that the Conservative Party include in its next election platform proposals to reform Question Period as outlined in Motion M-517 which called on the House of Commons to:
a. Strengthen the role of the Speaker in enforcing discipline;
b. Increase the amount of time allotted to every question and answer;
c. Examine the convention that allows Ministers to not answer questions put to them;
d. Select half the questioners every day randomly;
e. Dedicate Wednesday as Prime Minister’s Question Day (as is done at Westminster) and;
f.  Dedicate the other days to Ministers in a way that would require each to be present on at least two of four days.”
Lighting Canadians’ Hearts on Fire - Specific Recommendations
Appendices #1, #2, and #3
Appendix #2 Distinguishing Ourselves on a Value Proposition
Question #2:  For what values do we stand that distinguish our Party from the other parties?
8.       It is resolved that the Purpose of our Party is “To Serve all Canadians passionately and effectively, without fear or favour, in accordance with key values, including Freedom, Responsibility, Equality, Compassion and Integrity.”
Appendix #3  Creating a Long-Term, United Vision for Canada
Question #3:  What is our long-term vision for a unified, prosperous Canada?
9.       Recommend Section 80 Aboriginal Affairs Principles and Section 82- “The Legal and Democratic Authority for Aboriginal Self Government” be amended. The new policy statement to read: “It is resolved that the Party govern its actions and words in Aboriginal Affairs by the “SCATER” Principles:
“S” for Self-Sufficiency: the need for Aboriginal persons and all other Canadians to be self-sufficient;
“C” is for Certainty: the need for all Canadians to be able to regulate our conduct with a high degree of predictability in education, city management, governing bodies, and business;
“A” is for Accountability: as in all aspects of Canadian government, in Aboriginal self-government, elected and appointed officials should be accountable to those governed; there should not be a large concentration of power concentrated in a few hands;
"T” is for Transparency: related to Accountability;
“E” is for Equality: as represented, among other places, in our Charter of Rights;
“R” is for Reconciliation: acting on responsibility that Canada owes to Aboriginal people, legally and morally, for past injustices.”
10.     Recommend a new policy statement under Section L- “Aboriginal Affairs” sub-section 84: “Respecting the Canadian Constitutional Framework” be added to read: “It be resolved that  an Aboriginal Community is a highly respected element of Canadian society and is not a Sovereign Entity, Separate Nation or has a status that is not consistent with the peoples of Canada. Canada must respect and acknowledge the culture and traditions of Indigenous people as it must with any other sector that comprises the fabric of Canada where such traditions and cultures enhance equality in a pluralistic society.”
11.     Recommend a new policy statement be added to Section L-“Aboriginal Affairs” sub-section 82- “The Legal and Democratic Authority for Aboriginal Self Government” to read: “It be resolved that the Conservative Party set timelines for treaty negotiations with incentives for all parties to bring closure.”
12.     Recommend a new policy statement to be added to Section 58-“Wellness Promotion” to read: “It be resolved that: a new emphasis be given to encourage our nation to be more active in pre-emptive healthy physical activity AND THAT the Party expand the Parliamentary Fitness Initiative ensuring all Parliamentarians are aware of it; the Party supplement current activities with information sessions tailored to the routines and health issues of people in public office and emphasize the personal responsibility of Canadians in maintaining their personal health; the Party adopt National Health and Fitness Day; that day to be core to Canada’s 150th Anniversary Celebration; and the Party support stricter limits generally in the Canada Food Guide in the amount of sugars that Canadians consume.”
13.     Recommend a new policy statement under Section 58-“Wellness Promotion” to read: “It be resolved that the Party create and/or adopt a National Cycling Strategy that capitalizes on the positive effects of cycling for health, the economy, tourism and the environment AND THAT the design and construction of national transportation infrastructure take into account the incorporation of feasible and cost-effective bike friendly features AND THAT fiscal incentives be incorporated for the purchase and use of bicycles AND THAT National Safety guidelines for motorists and cyclists be established.”
14.     Recommended deletion of Section 47 “Environmental Principles” to be replaced with a proposed new policy statement to read: “That our Environmental Policy is defined by the concept that “The Environment IS the Economy” where such concept defines the metrics of a sustainable future based on continuous and simultaneous improvement in efficiency and productivity. Specifically the measurement of success is based on the continuous growth in our gross domestic product, (Productivity) with simultaneous and continuous reductions in the use of resources, whether those resources are natural, renewable, non-renewable, human or otherwise, (Efficiency).”
Discussion: world-renowned environmental engineer David Bromley, a West Vancouver-based Party supporter, makes the case that Canada’s sector of professionals who owe their livelihood to the environment has grown in size, global influence, and impact on Canada’s economy.  Meanwhile Canadians have developed increasingly effective ways to minimize resources in industrial production.  Canada can steadily work to promote efficiency and productivity; meanwhile, with the right combination of environmental stewardship, our economy and environment should advance together, a move away from the traditional view that one must sacrifice, for the other to make progress.  This approach encourages our Party to stand for conservation in contrast to environmental aspects who would use the environment as a stop agent.
15.     Recommend a new policy statement under Section I-“Environment” to include “Marine Safety and Abandoned Vessels” to read: “It be resolved that the Party emphasizes our commitment to Maritime Safety by implementing an institutional change, to transfer the Coast Guard back to the Minister of Transport; and that the Kitsilano Coast Guard base be re-opened using a cost-effective plan, or create or upgrade a facility that can effectively and efficiently respond to marine safety matters.”
“It be resolved that the Conservative Party stand by its commitment to deal with abandoned and derelict vessels.”
“It be resolved the MP’s and candidates in Pacific and Maritime ridings consult with scientific and technical experts and implement decisions based on independent scientific data.”
16.     It be resolved to amend existing policy Category F-“Economic Development”, item 27 vii. with the addition of a paragraph (c) “It be resolved that the Party promote innovation as a key aspect of Economic Development.”
17.     Recommend a significant amendment to existing policy statement Section 29- “Science, Research and Development” to read: “It be resolved that the Conservative Party say what we are doing and we have done in providing the right balance between freedom for employees, including scientists, to speak publicly and the need for the organization to be truthful, coherent, articulate, and consistent in public statements.”
18.     Recommend a new policy statement under Section M-“Criminal Justice” be added regarding “Legalization of Marijuana” to read: “It be resolved that we move to the ticketing regime thus providing needed change and allowing Canadians more time to observe what jurisdictions experience before moving to full-scale legalization.”
19.     Recommend a new policy statement be added under Section 61- “Pharmaceuticals” to read: “It be resolved that Vanessa’s Law be incorporated into the Conservative Platform AND THAT the Party adopt the terms of Bill C-692 calling for the development and implementation of a comprehensive federal framework to address the proper use of prescription drugs AND THAT the Party support formalization of the designation of the third Saturday in March every year as “National Prescription Drug Drop-Off Day” AND THAT the Party formally endorse the continuance of the Conservative Caucus to Combat Substance Abuse.”
20.      Recommend a new policy Section be added under Section J-“Health” to read: “Drug-Addiction” and such statement be added to read: “It be resolved that the Conservative Party create and sustain sound policies to assist people struggling with drug addiction AND THAT the Country benefits when those with resources take time and invest those resources to assist the most vulnerable AND THAT it be resolved that taxpayer’s money be invested to assist people in recovery.”

John Weston Blog

By John Weston 13 Jan, 2018
No one has tried harder in leadership to move the dial away from glitz and towards good character than Preston Manning.

It’s fitting that he’s sought a crowning moment in his career by writing a scholarly and practical book on pursuing good character in leadership: Faith, Leadership and Public Life: Leadership Lessons from Moses to Jesus , (Castle Quay Books, 2017). It’s intriguing that he’s directed strong criticism at fellow travellers, that is, Christians. He also has worthwhile things to say to people of all faith backgrounds who crave more character in modern leadership.

First, let’s look at the book’s message to Christians. Unencumbered by political considerations, Manning squarely expresses his faith as the premier influence in his life. As he says,
   [W]hile my secular advisors were always worried that my religious views and commitments would alienate potential    political supporters, I was always more worried that my political positions and commitments would alienate potential    believers from investigating the claims of Christ. (FN 374, p. 261),

Without apology to non-believers, he uses examples of leadership from the lives of key Biblical figures: Jesus, Moses, David, Daniel, and Esther. In a groundbreaking way he addresses them, not as religious icons, but as political actors who had to cope with leadership challenges common to us in the 21st Century.

Based on a lifetime of managing the tension between his personal faith and his commitment to grassroots democracy (he used to have a quote from US President Thomas Jefferson in his office about trusting “the people” with political decisions), Manning works with the reader to examine why the church has become increasingly stripped of political influence.

There are people who would keep public life out of the church, and even more who would keep the church out of public life. Manning deals deftly with the separation, then hones his argument for why there's a necessary overlap. More than conceding that the two must intersect, he believes that healthy society requires a commitment of secular leaders to protect faith-based institutions and of faith leaders to take a stand in the non-faith public arena.

Manning lays part of the blame for marginalization of Christianity at the feet of Christians who try to impose their faith on others:

   [A] tragic irony is that when well-meaning Christians advocate the use of the coercive power of the state to bring in the    kingdom of heaven they are actually taking not Jesus’ side but the side of Satan… (p. 41)

   So if there is one supreme test for distinguishing the expression of genuine Christianity in practice from spurious           Christianity … it is that genuine Christianity does not seek to impose itself or its solutions on those who choose not to    receive it. (p. 115)

Christians, Muslims, and others of faith - don’t take Manning’s words lightly! As a Christian and recently a Member of Parliament myself, I recall the stern warning from Fraser Institute Founder Michael Walker, echoed by Manning in Faith. “People don’t fear your faith,” Michael said, “They just fear you might want to impose it on them.”

Manning addresses not only philosophical and spiritual matters but also pragmatic issues that bedevil leaders concerned with character. At the end of most sections is advice entitled “Implications for Us,” tips for leadership success that conjure up the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli in The Prince . The difference between Manning and Machiavelli is that Manning consistently puts character above short-term success.

Manning’s eternal perspective allows him to believe that virtuous decisions which entail short-term sacrifice ultimately engender long-term success. He’s sparse on the personal anecdotes, however. One of the best personal stories he does relate is the description of decisions he made to promote democracy which ultimately cost him the leadership of the party he created.

Manning’s book is a work for our times, as citizens of democracies around the world stand aghast at the hollowness of our leaders. The “dumbing down” of political discourse fashioned by digital communications; the domination of money in American and other politics; and the overweening influence of special interest groups have all contributed to erode our trust in leaders.

Other strengths of the book include the impressive scholarship. For example, the 511 footnotes provide excellent background and - what a welcome break from current practice! - Manning goes against the grain by presenting them conveniently at the bottom of relevant pages. Manning also ennobles the work by refraining from partisan potshots.

If there’s any disappointment in the book, it’s that Manning falls short in one of the two objectives he states in his Preface, that is, to help secular people understand better the “nature and implications of the religious traditions and convictions of citizenship who hold them”.  

This is not so much a criticism as an invitation for Manning to write a sequel. His focus on advising people of faith how to lead - his other objective, in which he succeeds admirably - may make it hard for readers to appreciate his message if they do not share his faith convictions. That’s okay - by keeping his sights on a particular audience, he’s able to increase his impact.

However, he has a strong message engendered by his faith for people who are not Christians. While the leaders studied in the book are Biblical characters motivated by faith in God, history suggests that people touched by those leaders benefited, regardless of their faith.

Similarly, many people touched by Manning have benefited from his leadership regardless of their faith. Based on his life example, his impressive Biblical scholarship, and his vast political experience, Manning has the means to create another book targeted solely at persons who do not share his belief in God. Such a book could provide invaluable advice for the non-believer that would improve the governance of Canada, in politics, business, and other fields. Such advice can be found in Faith but with more focus on the secular reader Manning could make an even more significant impact on that audience.

Even as a book focused on readers of faith, the book could have been improved in certain simple ways. As a lighthearted person whose quick wit is easily triggered, Manning is excessively sober in his book. I could find only one purely humorous moment, in a footnote (“Why did the Canadian cross the road? To get to the middle.” p. 89)

While humility is generally a virtue, Manning actually sacrifices valuable ground by sharing personal anecdotes so parsimoniously. The reader has to wait until page 82 to find even a trace of self-promotion, a footnote mention of Manning Centre activities. He continues to cherish privacy for his family but, again, the reader loses out by not learning more about Manning’s impressive wife, Sandra, and the influence she’s had on his life. He discusses the influence of Wilberforce’s wife on Wilberforce (p. 110), so why mention Sandra only in the Acknowledgements, at the end?

A bibliography and an index would have added to the book’s value. Churchill would have liked Manning and his book but exhorted the author to abbreviate it (Manning’s book is five times the length of Machiavelli’s). As Churchill might have said, if Manning had more time, perhaps he’d have written less.

In sum, Manning truly believes what he writes in his book: “Character - the inner condition of the human heart - is not only something most important to God; it is the most important qualification for public office” (p 208). Regardless of your faith position, you can’t argue with his underlying premise:

      Putting the interests of others - our fellow countrymen, our constituents, our colleagues, our families - ahead of our      own selfish interests should constitute our highest ethical commitment. (p. 54)

In sum, we can thank Manning for Faith and his many other contributions to good leadership. At the end of a James Bond film, there’s a recurring statement that “James Bond will be back”.  Let’s hope there is at least one more book in Manning; as with James Bond, we need to know that “Preston will be back.”

John Weston is an author, lawyer, and public speaker. As Member of Parliament, he represented West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country from 2008 through 2015.
By John Weston 13 Jan, 2018
Something happened on my way to dispute a traffic violation.

In fact, in an obscure incident in a tiny corner of Vancouver City Hall, a humorous, humbling little sequence of events led to a conclusion that honoured the framers of the Magna Carta.

I’d parked in Downtown Vancouver early one August morning last summer. I looked closely at the temporary sign that prohibited parking in that spot from 6pm til midnight. Clearly, I would be okay until 9am, or so I thought. But on my return the car had been towed and I had been ticketed. Closer inspection revealed another sign I hadn’t previously noticed. A couple of feet further up the same post, it prohibited parking for all but commercial vehicles. Given that Section 30 of the Magna Carta specifically prohibits a “sheriff, official, or other person [from taking] horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent,” I decided this was worth a fight.

Firstly, the sign I’d noticed was more prominent, almost a trap for the unwary. Secondly, the two messages were inconsistent. My sense of natural justice was that the regulation which accorded the more freedom ought to outrank the more restrictive one.

Outside the hearing room before things began, the adjudicator approached the four of us, each assembled to protest a traffic violation notice served against us. He looked at me astonished - he was a fellow member of a dinner group with whom I had engaged in political discussion on at least a dozen occasions over the past few years. He offered to recuse himself - step down in favor of a different adjudicator - not once, but three times. I knew he wouldn’t be easy on me - he’s too much a stickler for propriety to cut me special slack based on a personal relationship, but I figured he’d be intelligent and fair. And, given my travel schedule, it had taken five months to get to a hearing. So I wasn’t keen to attend another hearing. Instead, I made my pitch.

Drawing on my career as a constitutional lawyer and legislator, I offered three reasons to excuse my action, all based on the rule of law. The City of Vancouver ought not to promote or enforce ambiguous laws. In constitutional law, ambiguous laws are typically interpreted to favour the party misled by the vagueness, and against the party responsible for the ambiguity. Secondly, I said, the incoherence undermined respect for the rule of law, which goes far beyond the question of traffic regulations. Thirdly, such incoherence led to arbitrary decision-making and the rule of law frowns on arbitrariness. “There is no rex where will rules rather than lex,” wrote Henry de Braxton, in the 13th Century.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” So said English philosopher Edmund Burke and others. It was necessary to protest this unjust ticket to promote freedom and justice, not just to cancel my ticket.

The adjudicator didn’t buy the highfalutin language. Noble principles, he said, but any reasonable driver should have noticed the other sign. He proceeded to type in his decision.

But before he could finish, another motorist in the room approached me. She had highlighted a section of the Vancouver Traffic Bylaw that said the provisions of a temporary or portable sign prevail over other signage where there’s conflict. Unlike me, she didn’t let centuries-old constitutional verbiage get in the way. An accountant, she focused in on the pragmatic, the section that specifically applied to my problem, which was similar to hers. The adjudicator reversed his decision and canceled my ticket.

Where the constitutional lawyer failed, the accountant succeeded, all because, in our system, justice is often dispensed in an open adjudication room. Enthralled with the process, I waited to observe how the other cases were handled. The adjudicator continued respectfully to hear the pleas of other motorists, reach his decision, and spell out his reasons.

In one little episode, several aspects of a good justice system were on display: the adjudicator’s offer to recuse himself to avoid the appearance of bias; the opportunity for complainants to speak their piece; the openness of the hearing; the respect of the adjudicator for the parties; and his commitment to explain the process.

I walked away smiling, thinking that aspects of fairness decency do sometimes influence the dispensing of justice in Canada, even if our systems often leave a lot to be desired.

John Weston practises Indigenous Law and Government Relations. He served as Member of Parliament for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country.
By John Weston 20 Dec, 2017
If the world cries out for good leadership in 2018, one area where we Canadians need to lead is in reversing the underlying causes of obesity. It’s a messy subject, constantly a threat to political and personal sensitivities, and lacking in the drama that attracts front-page news coverage.

But we’re killing ourselves as a society through sedentary behaviour.

We fail to get outside and play. We don’t encourage our youth to engage in healthy physical activity. The consequences include obesity, rising cardiovascular disease, spiking diabetes rates, and mental illness.

If there’s any solace for Canadians, it’s that we’re not alone. The Economist recently reported on disturbing global trends revealed by the World Health Organization. Mirroring Canada’s problems, “The number of obese children and adolescents in the world has increased tenfold in four decades,” according to The Economist report (“Weighty figures,” Oct 14-20, 2017). “In the mid-1970s less than 1% of those aged 5-to-1o were obese. By 2016 it was 7%, or 124m… The WHO predicts that the number of obese children could surpass undernourished ones by 2022.”

We at the National Health and Fitness Foundation recognize that no one organization or initiative will reverse these harmful trends. We are committed to work with all those who want to work with us to show leadership at home by “Making Canada the Fittest Nation on Earth”. We hope the effects will ripple outward.
By John Weston 12 Dec, 2017
The story of John Chang hit the news last week, one of many recent cases involving Canadians imprisoned in China, at a time when the Justin Trudeau Government is trying hard to court Beijing for an improved trading relationship. 

CTV reported that Mr. Chang and his wife, owners of a Lulu Island Winery in Richmond, B.C. were arrested in Shanghai in March 2016 while visiting suppliers and agents, accused of under-reporting the value of wine they export to China. Their daughter Amy has done a masterful job of involving senior Canadian officials and the media to focus attention on her parents’ plight.

The incident reminded me of one of my most popular (and useful) articles, a piece called Getting Out of Foreign Jails. I wrote it to address the recurring pattern that arises when situations like Mr. Chen’s occur. Inevitably, the family has never faced such an array of problems before. Its natural tendency is to rely on our own government for help. This reliance typically generates positive short-term results but, to achieve a positive outcome, the family and friends have go go beyond reliance on the home government. The article Careful Strategies are Needed when Helping Canadians Incarcerated Abroad,   ran last year in The Vancouver Sun. Here it is again:
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.

By John Weston 01 Nov, 2017
I am delighted that Powell River and the Tla’amin Nation have received public recognition of their healthy relationship (“BC Treaty Commission praises Tla’amin Nation relations”, Chris Bolster, Sept 27, 2017; . The story rightly reflects the hard work and goodwill of specific individuals, such as Chief Clint Williams, Mayor Dave Formosa, and former Mayor Stewart Alsgard. As former MP for Powell River, I observed firsthand the healthy relationship between Chief, Mayor, and Regional District and worked closely with them. Among other things, we together precipitated unprecedented amounts of Federal government cooperation and investment in Powell River.

However, it’s a pity that in Indigenous Affairs, things tend to be painted in black-and-white tones. Nuances and middle ground become the victim of polarized thinking. Leaders and media find themselves speaking half-truths that undermine good, long-term results.

So it was in Chief Williams’ stating that, as former MP, I “was blocking the First Nation’s attempts at communicating with the Federal Government”. That is just wrong. In fact, Chief Williams initially brought me into the discussion when a fisheries issue was impeding progress on the Treaty negotiation. As a member of the Fisheries Committee and a consistent supporter of treaty-making in general, I sought and got a resolution to that issue that allowed progress on the Tla’amin Treaty.

In its March 31, 2014 issue, the Powell River Peak covered the townhall discussion in Powell River, when residents and I discussed my concern, that the Treaty states Tla’amin Law will in some situations prevail over Canadian law (“Weston speaks against the treaty,” Dean Unger, . Throughout my career as a lawyer in Indigenous Affairs and as a politician, I have consistently stood up for equality and human rights. We should never allow the law of any community, religious group, or Aboriginal group to prevail over Canadian law. The unity of our country, its peace, order, and good government, and the equal rights of Canadians depend on our being governed by one law, equal for all, regardless of race, colour, or creed. While our Constitution, the Indian Act, and court decisions have led us in other directions, we as Canadians need vigorously to pursue equality whenever we get the chance.

As MP and as Member of the Minister’s Caucus Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, I supported the Treaty, but not the “inequality” provision. I did express these views to the Prime Minister and the Minister. As elaborated in my recent book (On! Achieving Excellence in Leadership; Equality is at the centre of real, long-term reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people. For the long-term peace, order, and good government of our country, and for the benefit of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people, we Canadians ought at every turn to promote Equality in treaties, words, and deeds.

The piece ran as a letter to the editor in the Powell River Peak's Oct 4, 2017 edition.
By John Weston 01 Jun, 2017
Thank you for coming.  I’m honored to be your Master of Ceremonies for Bike Day on Parliament Hill today.Ottawa’s renowned hotel, the Chateau Laurier, was built in 1908.  The architects from the Montreal Firm Ross & McFarlane designed it to reflect the grandeur of our Parliament Buildings.  Their work continues to inspire our nation, just as it inspired the design of many other buildings in the city.In this 150th anniversary of Canada’s founding, we’re reminded that we’re building a nation. 
By John Weston 15 Feb, 2017
When an impatient bus driver dumped my daughter in Guelph, he refused to let her get her bag.  She was 16, in a town she didn’t know.  She was supposed to attend a weekend track camp.  She needed her luggage for her short stay but the driver had loaded it in the wrong compartment.  It wasn’t convenient for him to let her retrieve it.  Besides, she was just a little girl and, working for a big company, he thought he could get away with it.  When I complained to the company, no one listened or
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