Pondering Principled Leadership as Canada Votes

October 14, 2019 Updated: October 16, 2019

On Oct. 21, Canadians will head to the polls to elect their next government. Whatever the outcome, our next prime minister should be devoted to bolstering the nation’s international standing, increasing domestic contentment and prosperity, and further cementing our identity as a tolerant, value-driven nation.

Canada has a noble character, forged in the pioneering spirit of our forebears, refined through a process of self-examination, and tempered by our willingness to acknowledge our mistakes and do better.

This humility was earned through strife, but our renowned civility should not be seen as submissive to those who would undermine our civic nature.

Canada’s next prime minister must understand the true fabric of the country, reinforce it, and know how to mend it when necessary. Leaders should not bend the country to their will, but instead honour the spirit of the nation and the traditions that enrich it. Sound judgement and right motives are the minimum standard for a leader worthy of Canadians.

Unfortunately, it has become the norm that during an election, party leaders pander to their base, stifle controversies, and pounce on their opponents’ missteps.

But when the dust settles, the new prime minister will be swiftly tested on his or her convictions. They will be measured by their conduct and the history they create.

Personal Integrity

When the going gets tough, as it undoubtedly will, a good leader needs moral conviction to bear the burden of their position. Hopeless mediocrity, ubiquitous in politics, leaves scant chance to face the nation’s challenges head on and make the often painful changes needed for a prosperous future. Fortunately, strong and courageous leadership is infectious and can rouse the quiet pride of the nation.

A prime minister must heed the voice of conscience while continuously strengthening their character if they seek to walk an upright path on the world stage. The highest form of leadership is defined by a sincere wish to bring Canadians toward truth and honour. Our nation’s character must not be compromised in the name of expedience or profit. Truth is a powerful ally; appeasement is a steady of mediocrity.

Leaders with fortitude can use truthfulness as their compass. It can guide them in charting a course in serene or stormy weather. If they can’t speak openly and clearly about their actions and intentions, their potential to uplift the nation and be a righteous player in world affairs will be sharply curtailed.

The true mettle of a leader is revealed as they deal with domestic and foreign challenges, often with limited influence and painful trade-offs. Leadership is born in moments when a principled stand requires sacrifice and a steady hand. When a leader’s words and actions match the noble character of the nation, they can wield the true power of their position. Then, with a basis in morality, they can be a force for good in the world.

Humility and inner strength are inexorably linked. True power is not represented by bravado, rhetoric, or bombast, but in the calmness of broadminded altruism. Hypocrisy, on the other hand, is the death knell for credibility. It saps a leader of the populace’s trust.

Popular opinion is not a reliable barometer, and a leader must not be tempted to use it as their true north. Facts matter, and unpopular facts usually matter more. Cowardly attempts to avoid politically volatile and factious issues creates distrust.

Engaging in frank, honest conversation about contentious social issues will earn leaders not only the respect of their supporters but the reluctant admiration of their opposition.

A Proper Perspective

Canadians have never enjoyed a better quality of life, at least in terms of material consumption. The achievements of our age are remarkable, and advances in technology have enabled us to achieve untold (and troublesome) realms of indulgence. Despite this seeming prosperity, many Western countries have lost the elevating drive that all nations require.

The collective guilt prescribed to affluent Western nations does not inspire them to greatness. Yes, many nations have committed grave injustices in their history, but they’ve also changed themselves by redeemable virtues. To look at past mistakes and ignore the moves toward justice robs a country’s people of the vigour they need to meet challenges head on.

As a model of good governance, Canada is in a position to use its middle power status to influence world affairs. Canada is a content and principled nation, and is warmly regarded by much of the world. It is imperative that Canadians don’t forget this hard-won reputation, and don’t allow those in power to squander it.

Despite challenges like the inevitable ebb and flow of economic success, Canada has not succumbed to the vicious polarization seen in Europe and the United States.

But we are not immune to this divisiveness, which is perhaps the greatest threat to a country’s integrity and sovereignty. Social issues are complex and increasingly emotionally driven. Impassioned voices, convinced of their moral superiority, are willing to ascribe hideous motives to their opponents. It is the prime minister’s job to dispel the noise using wisdom and reason. This will reveal the correct path forward.

Canada’s next prime minister should humbly recognize they stand on the shoulders of the men and women who built this country—often at great sacrifice, including that of our Indigenous Peoples. Honouring that sacrifice doesn’t mean scolding Canadians for the transgressions of their forebears. Nor does it mean pandering to ideologies that undermine our well-earned sense of contentment and gratitude. It means upholding the ideals of honesty, compassion, and tolerance, and helping create a history marked by virtuous prosperity and universal dignity.

It critical that our new prime minister invigorates Canadians with the confidence to capitalize on their good fortune. He or she must foster an entrepreneurial spirit that honours and builds on the past while boldly charting the course for a better future.

Ryan Moffatt is a journalist based in Vancouver.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.