Are there any Red Tories left in Alberta?
If so they should consider what Kim Campbell has to say about leadership and apply her comments to the men vying for the leadership of the UCP.
Kim Campbell was Canada’s 19th Prime Minister. A few short months after being sworn in as PM she had “political retirement thrust upon [her] by the Canadian electorate.”*
Campbell picked herself up, dusted herself off and went to work in academia and with organizations working to strengthen democracy and improve the role of women in leadership.
She reappeared on Alberta’s radar screen in 2014 when she was appointed the founding principal of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College (PLLC) at the University of Alberta.
Campbell describes herself as a Red Tory without a party, but her comments about leadership are helpful to anyone who wants to lead a political party regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.
The “dot” theory
Campbell says a leader is like a dot inside a small circle. They can’t go beyond the circle without risking alienating their followers.
The circle surrounding UCP leaders is much smaller than the circle surrounding the NDP, the Liberals and the Alberta Party because, with the exception of Doug Schweitzer, UCP leadership candidates prefer to stay silent on social issues like minority rights and LGBTQ issues. The UCP circle will stay small unless the men hoping to lead the party (and the province) have the courage to push the boundaries.
Case in point: the UCP was told it could not march in Calgary’s Pride Parade because it lacked a clear policy supporting gender and sexual diversity.
The UCP Interim Joint Board shifted into damage control mode and passed a resolution affirming the UCP’s support for the LBGTQ community.
This was a bizarre move given the Interim Board’s limited mandate (it appears to have the power to make administrative decisions, not policy ones) and the fact the resolution was passed “on behalf of just the board” (ie the 12 individuals, whoever they are, who sit on the board) not on behalf of the party.
UCP leadership candidates have not commented on the Interim Board’s resolution. There is no indication that any of them, except perhaps Schweitzer, would support the resolution at the UCP policy convention next spring (assuming it gets that far).
If the UCP leadership candidates want to show support for Calgary Pride all they have to do is show up on the sidewalk on parade day and wave a rainbow flag.
It’s not rocket science…but it requires leadership to demonstrate empathy and step outside the circle.
Can leaders be taught how to lead?
Kim Campbell says yes. The Peter Lougheed Leadership College teaches students the importance of diversity in developing good leadership skills by assigning them to working groups that are “designed for conflict”. This exposes them to people not like themselves and they become better leaders as a result.
A “designed for conflict” learning opportunity recently fell into the lap of UCP leadership candidate, Jason Kenney. Kenney is well known for his stance on outing students who join gay-straight alliances in schools and his reluctance to discuss “social issues” in general.
k. d. lang offered Kenney a chance to expand his understanding of LBGTQ issues by promising him tickets to her concert if he’d sit down and talk with her. He refused. He was too busy.
The fact that this self-styled “servant leader” turned down an opportunity to learn from one of Alberta’s most famous LBGTQ advocates speaks volumes about Kenney’s leadership qualities (or lack thereof) and his ability to represent all Albertans if he becomes premier some day.
The fact that none of the other UCP leadership candidates volunteered to take Kenney’s place and share what they would have learned from k. d. lang with their caucus and supporters is even more mind boggling.
One final lesson
Campbell says it’s critical for politicians to learn to respect others, to acknowledge differences and find common ground.
She asks: how will you ever change the world if you refuse to go outside your envelop?
One hopes Red Tories are asking their UCP leadership candidates this question…and are prepared to walk away if they don’t get a satisfactory answer.
*This quote and other comments attributed to Kim Campbell come from her key note address at the ATA Summit Aug 2017