Monthly Archives: January 2019

Meehan vs. The Mayor

  jim watson

A couple of weeks back Carol Anne Meehan, the rookie Gloucester – South Nepean Councillor made waves because she questioned the Mayor’s decision NOT to allow her to bring a staff person into a one-on-one budget discussion that Mayor Watson was having with her as part of his pre-budget discussions. These are, I imagine, largely informal discussions where the Mayor expects to hear the 3 or so budget concerns from each ward.

Ms. Meehan is a new councillor and very likely she’s still getting up to speed on the many ways Ottawa City Council operates, the committees, procedures and governance as the ward representative.

I don’t know how long these meetings are meant to last, what expectations the councillor should have of the Mayor in the meetings.  There might even be a bit of confidentiality to the meetings.  One person that might know is Mike Patton,  he worked in the Mayors’s office when Larry O’Brien was Mayor of Ottawa and now Mike is working for Councillor Meahan.  Patton is going to be of great assistance to Meahan as he’ll be able guide her through the machinery of City Hall.  But does that make her more comfortable in her role? 

Councillor Meehan had a request, have a staff person join her in the meeting to take notes.  Meehan will not be the elected official to have a staff person take notes in meeting but this is not one meeting she will be able to. Ottawa, a city that has 338 elected officials around the corner on Parliament Hill is all about notes being taken in a meeting by staff.  An elected official bringing a staff person to take notes in a meeting is not a strange occurance, it happens all the time, everyday.

There could be more than meets the eye on this; the Mayor may be posturing a bit.  I doubt that the Mayor and Mike Patton get along that well.  Patton, who worked for the previous Mayor of Ottawa is now working for a new Councillor. Patton up until the Ottawa elections posted a daily video challenging the mayor on issues facing City Hall.  If it would be Patton coming into the meetings, Jim Watson would not be so happy.

A few people have commented online that if Meehan doesn’t know the top three issues from her ward she doesn’t deserve to be there.  Meehan has not had the smoothest start of the rookie Councillors, but her calling out the Mayor for not allowing her to have someone take notes for her seems fair. Next year she may not need that staff person there but this is her first budget in her first year of her four year term. I find nothing wrong with her making sure she has the information she needs to do her job however she needs to get it.

If this is any indication, this could be first of a few flaming arrows that Meehan will be firing in the direction of the Mayor.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker&  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

The Gatekeepers

Since the creation of the position of “White House Chief of Staff” in 1946, thirty-three men have had the ear of the President.  In the years since there has only been one extended period where a President did not have a ‘Chief’,  for 909 days President Carter chose to not name a Chief of Staff (Cos), or rather HE acted as his own chief.  For over 60% of his presidency, because of his decision, Jimmy Carter could not focus 100% on his job as he was doing a job that should have gone to someone else. Pundits feel he didn’t get it right until the last 7 months of his term, too late to avoid defeat  to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The Gatekeepers:  How the White House Chiefs of Staff define every Presidency written by Chris Whipple, is not only about the Chiefs of Staff but the Presidents themselves and the decsions made by them.  With all the information the Presidents had about previous CoS’s, there was a pattern of errors, or mis-decisions in filling that role. 

Gatekeepers covers the American Presidencies from Nixon to Obama and closes with a few words about the 45th President and how Trump might handle the slection process for the position.  Of all the Chiefs’, the consencus is that James Baker III is the cream of the crop and was able to ensure that Ronald Reagan won his re-election bid.  

The best advise that all Presidents are given is not to hire a friend, unless you want to lose that friendship.  A friend will not be able to say what needs to be said to the President, that is “No”. Honesty is the best advice that a chief of staff can give – if it can’t be offered, why have a chief.  The proof of Baker’s success is in his longevity working in the West Wing of the Whitehouse.  Baker, a registered Democrat in the 50’s when he met George H. W. Bush, served as Chief for two Presidents, Reagan and the recently deceased Bush. Baker’s connection to Bush 41 and his work as the Bush’s campaign for President against Reagan in the Republican primaries in 1980 brought him to the unlikely selection by Reagan to be his Chief of Staff.  His close relationship with Bush 41 must have played a huge role for Reagan.  As the architect of Reagan’s main opponent in the 1980 campaign Baker could be challenged as the best choice. Baker staying in as CoS through Reagan’s entire first term as President shows the loyalty that both Baker and Reagan had for each other and the roles they held.

As far as Chiefs for Democratic Presidents go, Bill Clinton can claim he had possibly the worst and best.  Clinton broke rule #1 and brought in a close friend, Mack McLarty as his first Chief.  McLarty , a member of the Arkansas Mafia, brought choas and unorganization to the the White House.  McLarty’s run as Chief can be best described as letting others run the administration with no control and what seemed like unlimited access to the President.  As chaotic as McLarty was, blame also goes to the Clinton.  His decision to appointment McLarty came the day after the election in.

As bad as Clinton’s decision was to hire McLarty, bringing in Leon Panetta in ’93 was a genius move and provided a smooth last few years in the White House while Hillary ran for a Senate seat and Al Gore was running for President.  Panetta was the steady hand needed to finish a presidency that was chaotic and challenged by a President that not always took the advice he needed.

The brilliance of Gatekeepers is not only the story of the CoS’s, but the issues, scandals and challenges brought on by a President but stickhandled by the Chief. Gatekeepersbegins with the Nixon Presidency, and if there is any administration that demostrates the loyalty of a chief, it’s Bob Haldeman’s running the the ship through the Watergate scandal of the 37thPresident, and he ran it right into the ground.  The most intriguing aspect of Gatekeepersis the insider perspective of major events that President’s had to deal with.  

The attack on the World Trade Centre September 9th2001 and the Bush 43 administration revealed the actions of an administration that could be scene as having two Chiefs.  Former Chief for Gerald Ford, Dick Cheney was now the Vice President and in agreeing to be the VP he negotiated responsibilities that normally go to the the CoS.  Andrew Card, who served as Deputy Chief under Bush 41, was now Chief for Bush 43.  The dynamic was “unique”  as Cheney says in the book as he, as VP, took on issues under National Security which under previous administrations would have gone to Andrew Card.

Gatekeeperspulls back the curtains on the West Wing.  As the reader you decide if you agree with how decisions were made and rate the effectiveness of the relationship between the Chief and the President.  What is clear is that the golden rule of not hiring a friend to be the CoS isthe cardinal rule and as the reader we all can sit back and see how a presidency falls apart because the Chief can’t say no and the President doesn’t want to hear it.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker&  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Save the Dates

The New Year is a clean slate, nothing held over from the previous 365 days. It begs the question, what is coming our way that we should be bookmarking as key milestones this year?

February 2019: 4 Federal By-elections will be called for February 2019,   there should be 5 by-elections called this month, the Quebec riding of St. Leonard – St Michel has not been represented in the house for month. The only reason for it not being called is that it will be officially vacated January 22nd, nine months before the next general elections, by Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio. The Prime Minister is not obliged to call a by-election for a riding that is vacant 9 months or less before the next general election.  The by-election all of Canada will be watching is Burnaby South BC, it’s where NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will be tagging his hopes to win a seat in the House of Commons. Early prognications are not good for Singh.  If he loses what happens to the NDP under his leadership? Other ridings up for grabs are York Simcoe, formerly held by Conservative Peter Van Loan, Outremont which was the home of former NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and a second in BC, Nanaimo Ladysmith vacated by NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson to run in the same riding in a provincial by-election. At the time of writing this, no date had been announced by the Prime Minister for byelections.

October 21, 2019: This will go one way or another, you either support the government or you don’t and plan to vote that way.  The subtext of this election is more interesting and diverse.  Is Trudeau doing well?  Is he not?  It has not been a smooth four years.  Two key promises have been broken; despite what Trudeau said, this election WILL be decided under ‘first past the post’ and rather than small meaningful deficits and a one balanced budget there will be huge deficits and no balanced budget for 40 years. Will Justin Trudeau remain a one-term Prime Minister because of these broken promises or will he hold on in spite of them?  As MP’s get set to return to Ottawa the polls are close between the Liberals and Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives, this will be an important session for both as leaders will need to score “points” if they want to be Prime Minister. As the election gets close, has the anti-Harper vote been eclipsed but the “I voted Liberal, but didn’t vote for this” vote? 

March/April 2019: Ontario 2019 Budget will be the first budget from Doug Ford and will build on the November Fall economic statement delivered by Finance Minister Vic Fedeli.  The new Ontario government made may promises about reducing the debt and being responsble in spending.  This budget could be influenced by the promised line by line audit of government spending.  The Ford government has already announced cuts in programs that were brought in under Kathleen Wynne.  Notable were announcements include the end of the Gauarranteed income project, pausing the Francophone University spending and freezing the minimum wage at $14/hour. What Minister Fedeli will introduce will likely shock the NDP and Liberals, but it shouldn’t – the Ontario PC’s campaigned on reversing the out of control spending of the Wynne government.

Before or on May 31, 2019: The Alberta Provincial Election outcome seems to be pre-determined.  A NDP government elected four years ago was a blip on the Albertan polictical scene. It happened because the Alberta PC was too comfortable, an outcome that many governments have had to face.  Under a new leader and a new banner, Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party seem primed to wrestle the reigns of power back from the NDP.   The lone question may be, what capital has Premier Notley earned in her defense of building pipelines and moving Alberta crude to market?  What kind of election result will that give the Alberta NDP? June 1stor the day after the election will be a pivotal day for not only Alberta, but also Canada, Justin Trudeau’s Canada.  With a likely victory by the UCP, Alberta will become the 5thprovince to opt out of the Pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, and eliminate the provincial carbon tax.

Mark the dates on your calendar and watch the events unfold.

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 on Twitter @robertdekker&  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Goodbye, Hello and a Sad Farewell

The Headlines say it all…

Closed for Renovations: The Home of Canada’s Democracy 

(Toronto Star Dec. 18, 2018)

Lots of unresolved issues as Centre Block closes

(Penticton Herald Dec. 24, 2018)

The iconic Centre Block is closing indefinitely 

(The Globe and Mail Dec. 14, 2018)

Parliament adjourns for 2018, ending a final sitting in Centre Block for a Decade

(CTV News Dec. 13, 2018)

Closing Centre Block: Parliament Prepares to Leave

(CPAC, Dec. 17, 2018)

An empty House of Commons, December 2018

I have only been working on Parliament Hill for three years, but Centre Block, she is a grand old lady.  There are many areas to discover and to halls to wander down. The Library is an essential visit; there is the hall of Prime Minister portraits (including the story of the ‘wall’ between Jean Chretien and Paul Martin).  Working there, the committee rooms hold amazing artwork that captures our history, the Peace Tower and the memorial Chamber housing the books of those that have died in wars past. 

So much has been written about the “good-bye” to Centre Block that I figure the words on the new home of the House of Commons will be eventually written in January when MPs return to Ottawa.  Walking into the House and watching Question Period is always a thrill, I don’t always have to like the answer but its fun to hear the questions.   The many halls that take some getting used to may not be missed, but the meeting rooms, the corner offices, the Main Rotunda and the House and Senate Lobbies will certainly be missed.  They all have history and a person can get lost in thought when pondering the footsteps of thousands of MPs, Prime Ministers, foreign leaders, Governor Generals and many many many Canadians that might be only a echo in our history – but those steps loom large when you yourself have a chance to walk in Centre Block. 

The grand ole building will be missed, but boy oh boy do we have something amazing to call home for the next 10+ years!  Say hello the new West Block Chamber and the Senate chamber in the old Ottawa Conference Centre, that before that was the Union Station for trains coming in and out of Ottawa.

The work that has been done is phenomenal, the engineering in adding a major infrastructure within a building is something to behold.  The West Block doesn’t have the beauty of 100 years, but it is a beautifully renovated building that will house two large committee rooms that will also serve as the Government and Opposition Caucus meeting rooms.  The attention to detail in the West Block is intricate, the use of what were once outside walls to be indoor, the high glass ceiling in the House chambers creates a sense of limitless opportunities for MP’s all add to the awe of what is now our House of Commons.  

It is going to take a while to know exactly where the offices of the Prime Minister, Opposition and Third Party are and what is the fastest way to get there.  I imagine the many stairs and elevators will lead me astray – I will need a few weeks before I can adequately show guests around the building efficiently. 

Luckily I had the chance to walk through the West Block in November.  It was difficult to decide if I should take photos or just look at the transformation because you didn’t want to miss anything. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10161038762890858&set=pcb.10161038769540858&type=3&theater

Bruce Addo with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2011

Finally, a goodbye to a giant of a man, Bruce Addo passed away suddenly on Christmas day.  He had just started working in the Minister of Environment, Rod Phillip’s office, in Queens Park after the election.  I knew Bruce briefly, we worked on the Larry O’Brien campaign in 2010 together in Ottawa, but the memory of him stuck with you.  He was a hard person to forget, because he broke the mould on how a political person should act.  He never had a bad word for his political opponents, but never shied away from a debate with them. 

He had a smile that never quit and time for everyone for a conversation.   I don’t need to say more about him, the tributes on Facebook have flowed non-stop since the news of his death.  I mentioned to someone that if we all did politics the way Bruce did, Canadians would have a better opinion of politicians.  Bruce had a great future in the governing of Ontario and eventually Canada with a Conservative government.  He would have gone far, now he is gone far away but his smile will always be near.  

We will miss you Bruce.