Monthly Archives: January 2018


metooI can say that I had visions of 2018 being a challenging year; 2017 dictated that the 12 months that would follow could be “mind blowing”. Consider my mind blown!

The world is only one month into 2018 and could have anyone predicted that all the events that have unfolded (so far) would take place in just under 31 days?

Hollywood united with “amazing women and phenomenal men” at the Golden Globe awards saying that it was #TimesUp. The #MeToo movement rallied against misconduct and treatment against women with marched around the world.   Political upheaval is being witnessed in all levels of government on both sides of the 49th parallel as (rightly or wrongly) we’re seeing leaders resign.

Pushback by, Canada’s Indigenous Peoples to the government’s reconciliation efforts because it is not indigenous enough.

The Olympics are uniting the Koreas. New trade deals are uniting many countries while isolating some others. There is a war of words between two larger than life leaders. The doomsday clock is pushed forward by 30 seconds to 11:58:00pm.

Rhetoric about trade with the US and Mexico continues to be ramped up by the Americans with NAFTA threatening to be torn up.

Algorithms are changing how we see news and what news we see; Social Media is making sure we only see what we will “like” and keeping what angers us further down on our timelines. All the new news is to be found in newspapers and on the radio. This is the freedom that Facebook once proposed?

The court of public opinion is having dramatic effects; the voices of the dismissed and forgotten are being heard. But at what cost? Are journalists taking risks with their stories, or is the media finding its voice against those that find it fake?

What grabbed my attention in everything above is that in my year of living politically I am surprised by all of it? Should I be? Should I expect the unexpected? Should I think about how the events of the first 31 of 365 days will shape what I can see?

So, what will the remaining 11 months be like? What shape will they take and can/should we expect more revelations that disappoint us? When will we see improvements? Will news see positive results and positive changes?

There will be some outcomes that are more immediate than others. Voters in Canada’s two most populous provinces will vote this year, Ontario in June and Quebec in October.

An earlier barometer will be the leadership contest for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party following allegations that had the Party Leader, Party Executive Director and Party President all removed from their positions. The membership of the party will have the first say in the direction the party will flow. Will the events of the previous week have an effect on halting possible leadership bids from within the caucus? At the time of posting this, the Interim Leader, Vic Fedeli had decided not to seek the position permanently. Would that be an effect of a new political environment?

Following the selection of the new leader the party almost jumps into election mode, as of March 10th – the date the Leadership is decided there are only 89 days before Ontario votes. Will party choices speed up or kill momentum for the new leader?

As we also approached day 31 of 2018, Donald Trump will have given his “State of the Union” address to the nation. Will events of the previous month and events before that change Trump?   Can there be an expectation that hard lines will be drawn in cement by the President?

On Day 32, February 1st, what are your expectations? More of the same or do you see positive progress from the events that took place January? Let me know, please a comment.

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Trolls: They gave me three L’s – Look, Listen & Learn

TrollsI watched three movies last weekend; The Last Picture Show (from 1971), The Money Monster (from 2016) and Trolls (also from 2016).

All were entertaining, but following the weekend events of marches and a presidential anniversary, I got more than a toe tapping good time from Trolls. I actually got a message out of the sunshine, songs and hugs. It was Trolls that brought me my “living politically” moment I sought.

If you haven’t seen the movie you will have heard the song “Can’t stop this feeling” from Justin Timberlake. The version in the movie is actually better as Anna Kendrick adds her vocals to the songs…but I digress.

Here’s the premise; the trolls are thought to bring happiness to those that eat them. 20 years previously (in movie time) Trolls were forced from their home to avoid being devoured by Bergens, big bad monsters who are NEVER happy – except when they eat a Troll on a special holiday ‘Trollstis’. On the celebration of the 20 year anniversary of their freedom, they are rediscovered by the Bergen who was banished for not delivering the Trollstis meal that fateful night 20 years earlier.

Now, a full generation as passed and Bergens continue to be miserable, well because there are no trolls to eat.

Trolls are small, colourful and happy; Bergens are big bland and unhappy, very unhappy. One Bergen (Bridget) seeks her happiness with her love for the King, but she is a scullery maid being ordered around by the Bergen Chef, once banished and now seeking redemption. In an effort to save a group of Trolls scooped up Princess Poppy, encounters Bridget and through the ‘positivity’ of being a troll, Poppy convinces Bridget that happiness comes from inside a person, not be eating a troll.

Cutting to the end, Bridget and the King find love (and happiness); all the Bergens discover that they don’t have to eat a troll to find their happiness (and their singing voices); the big bad Bergen chef is once again banished and the land of Bergens is once again full of colour and Trolls and Bergens live happily ever after.

So, here’s the message, and it has nothing to do with singing, dancing or the hourly hugs; though I am sure these would not hurt at all. In the “win” the trolls had over the Bergens, it was not a “win” at all – but collaboration for better days. Trolls Poppy and Branch (Justin Timberlake) don’t push their ideals on others. Instead they work and show how their happiness comes from within; again let me add, no one ever preaches about being best. Well, one person does and that Bergen ends up being the outcast (again) by the time the dancing starts and the credits roll.

Seriously though, healthy debate resolves issues, name calling does not. Understanding issues and looking similar outcomes as a starting point means everyone wins. Being positive on action but not be being positive the other person is wrong will guide everyone down the same path and finally getting to a point that bullying solves nothing is the sure way to a common resolution.

So while I am on the opposite side of the aisle of the government, let me strive to follow three L’s; look, listen and learn from common aspects and seek change and adaptation. It won’t be easy, but I feel that this way if there is no impasse I will have done my best to see and seek a joint solution.

Ah, If only we had hair like Trolls that would tie all this up in simple bow.

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Naomi Klein: The Leap Manifesto and ‘De-Trumping’

No is not enoughThe Leap Manifesto brought down a federal NDP leader and left the same party with a void in its leadership until late 2017. Following the 2015 Canadian election at the post election leadership review convention of the New Democratic Party (NDP) the membership passed a motion to adopt the Leap Manifesto as policy. The same party, now under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh will have its policy convention in Ottawa in February 2018. Will the party faithful tie their new leader with the manifesto as party policy for the next election?

I need to take a step back. In Naomi Klein’s book “When NO in not enough (resisting the shock politics and winning the world we know)” she provides the history of the Leap Manifesto, which was drawn up in Toronto in 2015. It would be as Klein calls it a ‘platform without a party’. Rather, for 2015 it was a guide for supporters of the “Leap” to challenge candidates and parties to adopt some of the manifesto properties as it had not been adopted as policy by any political party, large or small at that time.

In what would be a good read on the development of the Leap Manifesto on its own, Klein decides that for 75% of “NO is not enough…” She would rather focus on Trump, Pence and the billionaires that have seats around his cabinet table.

Reading this book, the process she describes as leaders from across Canada to think about a way forward was interesting and in my view would have been a better focus for her and book. I mean could not ignore Trump if she tried – but how she spent so much time on him was just inconceivable to me. How each of these leaders came with their own ideas, how the ideas developed and how their questions would be taken and later developed into the Leap Manifesto was interesting, very interesting. I do not profess to agree with a lot of what they would say, it’s the process and how everyone ‘bought in’ into it. The Leap Manifesto is an effort of collaboration, cooperation and patience of likeminded people willing to let smaller gains be forgotten for a larger purpose.

The difficult part of this book is Klein’s extreme dislike of Donald Trump. Her tone towards the election and subsequent policy declaration of Trump remains on the verge of hatred. She goes to great lengths to ‘almost’ single out Trump for the demise of the earth and the effects policy by previous Presidents have had on the speeding up of climate change. Supporters of the President will blast it all as a figment of her imagination, but she does back up her statements and it is there where the reader needs to cut through the fog that is her distaste of Trump.

Klein’s tone softens a bit when discussing the Obama years, saying that Obama had the opportunity (and didn’t take advantage of it) to pass significant legislation to advance American actions to slow climate change. She praises Obama for signing the Paris Accord, stopping the Keystone XL pipeline extension – only to rage back on Trump for reversing those decisions. Klein expresses disappointment that Obama didn’t do more in the first two years of his first term when he had the benefit of a Democratic majority in the Congress. It is difficult to comprehend just how challenging or easy it could have been for Obama (to do what Klein suggests) without any significant understanding of how the Obama White House operated at that time.

Klein always brings it back to Trump, his brand, his rich corporate friends that now hold cabinet positions. She spills a lot of ink on Trump, and how she foresees the Trump brand taking hold of a government response to extreme climate weather clean up with ‘for-profit’ ethics and less than satisfactory results that will not meet the needs of Americans. She cites the clean up of Hurricane Katrina and the Bush era republicans profiting while providing less than stellar security and clean up. I have no doubt that had Klein waited and published this book to include the US government response to Hurricane Maria and the contracts awarded for clean up and restoration of power, she would have the first indication of how a Trump White House reverted to an establishment White House. As I write this, Puerto Rico has been ‘dark’ for 117days – something that Klein would have a heyday over especially being under the watch of Trump.

With “NO is not enough…” Klein calls for the ‘de-trumping’ of America and her tool for doing this is the Leap Manifesto. While the manifesto is not active with a political party (yet) others are embracing it. There is a movement in Thunder Bay Ontario to have a slate of candidates run under a municipal “Leap”. Mid-term elections in the US are coming; will any candidate take up the Leap Manifesto? Will the US Green Party take the “Leap”?

Under the friendlier name of the People’s Platform, Klein and company continue to pursue a worldly ‘Leap’.   In this exercise of living politically, Klein provides a view that needs should be heard. It is unknown if it’s a reasonable solution or if portions of the manifesto are to be lifted – but it was an illuminating read, a read that has opened a door for further investigation.

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“On the House” by Rob Walsh

In a year of living politically, it challenges me to read more so I know and understand more. The first challenge was to learn about what my political reality really is. As a ‘staffer’ on Parliament Hill I had knowledge of the happening of the activities of how Parliament Hill “works. What I needed was an understanding of why it works the way it does and the historical and constitutional contexts that Canada is governed by.

It could be a book for dreamers, those that dream of becoming an elected Member ofOn the House Parliament. At least by reading the book before making the decision to run, it could weed out a few who might be considering a ‘run’ when the weight of the position is understood.

On the House is written by Rob Walsh, who had a 20-year career as a Law Clerk working with Members of Parliament and their staff on Parliamentary procedure and regulations. On the House introduces the players that support MP’s and staff and also reveals a few secrets that take the mystery out of the daily procedures that rule all that are allowed to be in the House of Commons.

The book arrived at a time when there were ethical questions raised by members on the activities of the government. On the House covers the everyday activities of from the moment a newly elected MP arrives in Ottawa to set up an office, attending Member “school” and to be sworn in, all this to be done before setting one foot into the House of Commons.

Beyond the first steps following an election, On the House, takes the reader (and the new MP) through an exercise of understanding how our constitution was developed going back to before the Magna Carta and the development of the separation of the Crown and Parliament in the United Kingdom.   What follows through in the pages is an evolution of ‘privilege’, ‘ethics’, tradition where much of the work of governing take place. Walsh takes us into committee rooms, into the law clerks office and of course into the House of Commons as he explains how the procedures, with even the smallest alteration would have an large impact.

In light of what has been making recent headlines, the sections on ethics and parliamentary privilege are of particular interest. I should note here that skipping ahead to read these chapters should not be encouraged; having the constitutional context of privilege is needed to know that Canada is governed by history as much as it is by a changing political and social landscape.

The idea of Parliamentary privilege might seem unlawful to Canadians, protecting our elected officials from what is said in ‘the House’ and on Committee? Walsh does a good job to explain why the privilege exists and where it comes from. While privilege exists in the House and in Committee, it does not outside of these, hence the reason you’ll hear requests to have something said in privilege repeated outside the doors of the house (which are used as the cover of On the House).

Through case histories, parliamentary debates and parliamentary procedures outside of the House of Commons Walsh give the reader the experience that even though there are flaws, our form of government that was first set out in the British North America Act of 1867 works. Walsh also uses cases of law that defend the privilege that MP’s enjoy. While Walsh worked to defend many of Parliaments privileges – he does disagree with a few and puts his case forward – but history more than often not wins out and unwritten laws or traditions of privilege remain in place.

It might seem that On the House is a book for the Ottawa bubble, but the reality is that Walsh has provided Canadians with a “how to book” for comprehending how our government and the opposition how each play their roles.  There is legalese to navigate, but would you expect anything else considering the topic? Walsh’s view as Parliamentary Council on our Parliament is unique and one that should be read and shared.

On the House is available through McGill Queens University Press.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at I can be reached at