The provincial election is going full-tilt in Alberta and the long-standing ruling party, the Progressive Conservative party under Alison Redford finds itself being heavily challenged by the Wildrose Alliance party under Danielle Smith.
As a long-time strategy advisor to Fortune 25 organizations, I strongly believe that the strength of an organization, the future of that organization and the impact of that organization on the people whom it serves can often be gauged by studying the leader of that organization.
So when some controversial comments from some Wildrose Alliance party candidates hit the airwaves, I thought “I’ll wait to see what their leader says” and sure enough, after many requests by the CBC, she finally agreed to have an interview on CBC Calgary’s Eyeopener.
Now I’m wondering if she should have stayed off the air.
Wildrose Alliance candidate Pastor Allan Hunsperger made news last week regarding a blog he wrote about a year ago where he indicated that gays should not be accepted and that they will burn in hell. Pastor Hunsberger even criticized the Edmonton Public School system for creating policies that protect gay students from bullying.
In commenting on this, Ms. Smith indicated that people are entitled to their opinions and that “we need to be tolerant of other people’s views”.
Even when those views are highly intolerant of other people, Ms. Smith?
She also pointed out that she would not comment on the pastor’s comments because she believed in the separation of church and state. When a candidate, pastor or not, brings his personal views to their candidacy, this is not a matter of separating church and state – it is a matter of understanding the values that the candidate brings to the table.
The fact that Ms. Smith would say these things indicates that either:
- she doesn’t understand the definition of “separation of church and state” and how it is interpreted under the Canadian Charter
- she won’t stand up to people within her own team, even when their views are controversial or problematic
- she doesn’t want to make waves by addressing the issue as she should, thus playing it safe, hoping it goes away and holding on for the win.
Any or all of these are a reflection of ineffective leadership and have me greatly concerned that such an ineffective leader could potentially win the upcoming election.
Ron Leech, another candidate running for the Wildrose Party, had this to say earlier in the campaign:
“I think as a Caucasian, I have an advantage,” Ron Leech told a Calgary radio station on Sunday. “When different community leaders such as a Sikh leader or a Muslim leader speaks, they really speak to their own people in many ways. As a Caucasian, I believe that I can speak to all the community.”
He later apologized and said that as a Caucasian, he is not at a disadvantage.
Yeah … that fixed it all right.
With all the things going on in the world, why is race relevant in this election, Mr. Leech?
Ms. Smith’s thought is that when people make a mistake and apologize, we should all move on.
That may be so for some mistakes. However, in these two situations, we see personal values and beliefs leaking to the surface.
Values and beliefs around intolerance and prejudice.
In these situations, there’s a big difference between apologizing for a genuine mistake versus offering a perfunctory apology just because one’s true self got exposed to the public.
Speaking of values, in the Calgary Herald in May 21, 2001, when discussing university behaviour codes, she noted:
It is perfectly reasonable [to] expect its students to refrain from practices that are biblically condemned, and sign a pledge not to get drunk, swear, harass, lie, cheat, steal, have an abortion, practise the occult, or engage in sexual sins such as premarital sex, adultery, homosexual behaviour and viewing of pornography.
I wonder if we will see laws passed around this also.
Ms. Smith appears to be a leader who allows hateful words of intolerance to spread and one who sidesteps controversy and truth when they erupt. She also believes in equal contribution by her caucus. If what we are seeing in the media is a sampling of what her caucus is capable of, I am very worried.
What really worries me though is that, as the party leader, she seems to be annoyed that this stuff matters to people and this fact reveals how naïve she is as a leader.
These events and how she is handling them are early indications of what her leadership of the Province might look like.
The famous quote “We get the government we deserve” applies here. When we blindly elect a party and a leader without taking the time to understand what we are electing, then we deserve what we get.
I just don’t want to hear anybody whining about it later because the damage will already have been done.
However, the real reason I don’t want to hear any whining is because Ms. Smith will not be alone in owning responsibility for the damage.
We will share the blame, for having enabled her in the first place.
In service and servanthood,
Addendum - April 20th
During a presentation, Ms. Smith indicated that as far as she is concerned, she would not fire Mr. Hunsperger because his views are religious in nature and she believes in freedom of religion. We can hide behind religion and use it to justify hatred … but that doesn’t make it right nor does it command respect inside or outside the religious community.
She also believes that to be critical of Mr. Leech’s comments is a form of character assassination and that his racially-ignorant comment was an accidental one-off. I guess speaking up against racially-biased comments is unfair and we should stop doing so immediately (according to her). Meanwhile, a second interview (also here, summarizing just his inflammatory remarks) surfaced today – advance the video to 2:45 (if using the first link) to hear his comment on how being a Caucasian puts him at an advantage. Mr. Leech’s beliefs that being gay is sinful and an insult to God are also well documented.
Finally, she has no interest in reaching out to Mayor Mandel of Edmonton to try to smooth things out. A strong leader attempts to heal rifts whenever possible. If nothing else, a selfish leader would at least suck it up and reach out to him in an attempt to win extra votes. The former way is the better way but it appears that her confidence level is so high in her ability to win that she appears to not care about the need for collaboration moving forward.
Sadly, these are not great leadership attributes for our young people to emulate moving forward.
Addendum – April 23rd
Both of the afore mentioned candidates (Mr. Leech and Mr. Hunsperger) went down to defeat in the Alberta provincial election. While Ms. Smith won her seat, the Progressive Conservatives under Alison Redford won a majority despite the polls claim that the Wildrose Party would win a majority.
This should be a lesson to Ms. Smith – that a strong leader must take decisive action when team members go astray. Hoping that problems will go away on their own is rarely an effective strategy for success.
Addendum – April 24th
Ms. Smith’s comments after a significant loss to Premier Redford and the Progressive Conservatives are a sign of what makes some people cynical of the system. The correct response after losing would have been something along the lines of “We look forward to serving the people of Alberta, keeping the Redford government honest on behalf of the people of Alberta, etc” and leaving it at that.
Instead, her closing comment “We look forward to defeating the Conservatives in 2016” shows a naïve dismissal of the next four years or a focus on winning an election instead of accomplishing the best things possible for the people of Alberta.
And you know what they say about wishing your time away.