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Year-End Leadership Message: It’s About Balance

December 25, 2016


As we near the end of 2016, I’ve thought about what message I could share with my readers, something to encourage personal reflection and leadership for 2017. Fortunately, someone I admire recently posted a wonderful piece. Derek Sivers, a global traveller and someone who’s allowed me to share some of his past posts, has some very important thoughts on achieving balance between pursuing your passion and earning a livelihood. Check it out below. Also be sure to visit Derek’s blog and subscribe to his posts.

To the people in the some 160 countries who read my posts on ChangingWinds, thank you for your readership. I wish you all a safe and enjoyable holiday season with family and friends. Let’s also pray for a more peaceful world in 2017.

I’ll see you in January.


Here’s Derek:


The Problem:

People with a well-paying job ask my advice because they want to quit to become full-time artists.

But full-time artists ask my advice because they’re finding it impossible to make money.

(Let’s define “art” as anything you do for expression, even just blogging or whatever.)

The Solution:

For both of them, I prescribe the lifestyle of the happiest people I know:

— Have a well-paying job
— Seriously pursue your art for love, not money

The Ingredients:


You’ve heard about balancing heart and mind, or right-brain left-brain, or whatever you want to call it.

We all have a need for stability and adventure, certainty and uncertainty, money and expression.

Too much stability, and you get bored. Not enough, and you’re devastated. So keep the balance.

Do something for love, and something for money. Don’t try to make one thing satisfy your entire life.

In practice, then, each half of your life becomes a remedy for the other.

You get paid and get stability for part of your day, but then need creative time for expression.

So you push yourself creatively, expose your vulnerable darlings to the public, feel the frustration of rejection and apathy, and then long for some stability again.

Each half a remedy for the other.



Be smart, and choose something that pays well with a solid future.

Look for statistics in your area about what pays the best, when factoring in training required.

You’ll probably need to study for a few years to build up the rare skills that are well-rewarded.

Read the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You for more great thoughts on this.

This is a head choice, not heart choice, since you’re not trying to make your job your entire life.


Pursue it seriously. Take lessons. Make weekly progress. Keep improving, even if you’ve been doing it for decades.

If you don’t progress and challenge yourself creatively, it won’t satisfy the balance.

Release and sell your work, like a pro. Find some fans. Let them pay you. Make a band and do some gigs for fun.

But the attitude is different than someone who needs the money.

You don’t need to worry if it doesn’t sell. You don’t need to please the marketplace. No need to compromise your art, or value it based on others’ opinions.

You’re just doing this for yourself — art for its own sake.

And you’re releasing it because that’s one of the most rewarding parts, is important for self-identity, and gives you good feedback on how to improve.



Your main obstacle to this amazing life will be self-control.

Mind management, to leave your job at the office, and not bring it home with you.

Time management, to stop addictions like social media and video-watching, and make your art your main relaxing activity.

Read the book “Daily Rituals” for great examples of this.


Final Thoughts:

How nice to not expect your job to fulfill all your emotional needs.

How nice to not taint something you love with the need to make money from it.

Most full-time artists I know only spend an hour or two a day actually doing their art. The rest is spent on mundane crap that comes with trying to make it a full-time career. So skip the art career and just do the art.

I’m fully expecting you to disagree with this advice. But I’ve met about a hundred people a week for the last 18 years, many of them full-time musicians, many of them not, but the happiest people I know are the ones that have this balance. So there’s my blunt template advice, given only because people keep asking.

Don’t try to make your job your whole life.

Don’t try to make your art your sole income.

Let each be what it is, and put in the extra effort to balance the two, for a rewarding life.

I see my patterns, and I choose to make changes.
— Louise Hay

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A Post-Leadership World

December 18, 2016


As a society we’re suckers for labels. We love creating a label for whatever seems unique or cool at the time. Examples abound, with a steady influx being created, manipulated from existing words, or appropriated from older generations. Then they go viral, usually disappearing after a little while.

More recently, what could be called society’s pseudo elites, those self-proclaiming above average brain power or special knowledge, have fallen into the habit of adding the prefix “post” to anything they see fit. Witness the expression “post-racial world” that dates back to 1971 in a New York Times article, and which started to become popular during Barack Obama’s presidency. But then reflect on the extreme violence that has been perpetrated on black Americans during Obama’s eight years in office. Take a moment to read a recent post I wrote, Giving Permission to Canada’s Racists.

The prefix “post,” however, has some history. Let’s look at the word Postmodernism, created in the mid 20th Century. (Modernism emerged as a philosophical movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s, spurred on by rapid industrial growth). Note that the word “post” in the modernism context pertains to the lack of any overarching principles, and importantly that there are no scientific, religions or philosophical truths that reveal all to everyone. Skepticism is seen as a healthy state among a population (an interesting concept if one were to apply it to the recent Presidential election in the United States).

Indeed, Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is Post-truth, an adjective defined as: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” For fun, check out this list of English words with the prefix “post”.


One person specifically comes to mind when reflecting on what’s now become one of the media’s hottest buzz words: post-truth. No one did—and does—post-truthiness better than President-Elect Donald Trump. Admittedly, there’s a pandemic now of politicians everywhere throwing facts and the truth in the ditch and going for the emotions of people. It’s way more efficient as a means to an ends (typically political), but also the lazy route. However, it shouldn’t be like that.

A leader with sound integrity and personal principles will earn his or her followership the hard way, through the process of conveying facts by rational explanation. Making up facts and appealing to people’s dark side—where our prejudices and fears hide—is the route the cowardly leader takes. Or to put it another way, as Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s GPS 360, said of Donald Trump shortly before the November 8th election: He’s a “bullshit artist.”

Well, you can’t get more direct than that, and perhaps Zakaria’s description is the closest one to the mark for President-Elect Trump. And it’s certainly paid off very well financially for Trump over time.

In August 2012, I wrote a post called What’s Your Truthiness Quotient?, drawing on Stephen Colbert’s The Word segment from his former Colbert Report satire show. “Truthiness” dates back to October 2005 when he first created it to mean “…truth that comes from the gut, not books.”

I came up with the idea of a Truthiness Quotient for leadership– HITS, comprising four key elements. These come from the gut, our inner being–not from books.


1) Humbleness:

You have a good grasp that your knowledge base, while perhaps impressive to others, is but a mere speck of sand in a mammoth and growing world body of knowledge. What you don’t know you don’t know vastly exceeds what you actually know. Think about that for a moment.

2) Integrity:

When you open your mouth and make a statement of whatever sort, you mean what you say and say what you mean. In short, are your words and actions congruent?

Sounds easy?

Give it try and ask one of your followers or peers to keep careful track.

Can your family, friends and co-workers take to the bank what you promise? Are you what the late Stephen Covey called a “promise keeper?”

3) Transparency:

How open are you? Are there two “yous,” one side that you present to others while keeping the other one for other purposes?

When you make decisions, do you share all the information you possess with your co-workers and staff? Or do you manipulate and hold information in order to achieve your non-transparent objectives?

4) Sacrifice:

If you mean what you say and say what you mean, then you have no problem taking the hit for the team when necessary, especially if you’re the official leader. In the military, especially special ops groups such as the Navy Seals, team leaders are the first to go in the door during a firefight. They don’t hesitate to sacrifice themselves when necessary. The last thing they do is expect a team member to lay down his life while the leader stays in the background.

Where are you when the going gets tough and dirty? Are you at the front of the line, ready to take the first hit?

So based on this short HITS quotient, should President-Elect Trump take the test? How would he fair?

Whether you’re an office manager, big-shot CEO, or leader of a nation, if you’re living your Truthiness Quotient to the fullest then you’re practicing a form of servant leadership. This is where you have created a loyal followership. And yes, President-Elect Trump had, and continues to have, an intensely loyal followership. But it has been of a short duration. What counts is a sustained loyal followership over the long-term, and whether it’s working towards the collective good of society.

So the big question is: are we living in a post-leadership world?

I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?
—Benjamin Disraeli (former British Prime Minister, )

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Ethical Leadership or the Penalty Box

December 11, 2016

Crossed Fingers.png

Some people are slow learners, even when they’re penalized and chastised for doing wrong. The Liberal Party of Canada, under the leadership of political street fighter Jean Chretien—the little guy from Shawinigan—got itself into a pile of trouble with Canadians and the courts during the early 2000s. The story started back after the 1995 Quebec referendum, when the No vote to Quebec separating from Canada barely squeaked through, a matter of only some 50,000 votes.

A fund was created to help bolster federalism and strengthen Quebeckers ties to Canada. What emerged over the next few years was a shady fund, with no formal application process and no monitoring, to pay for cultural events. Rumours grew that it was being used to support the federal Liberal party, in particular Liberal supporters. By 2002, Prime Minister Chretien and his government were on the hot seat. The Toronto-based Globe&Mail, through an Access to Information request, discovered that $550,000 had been paid to Groupaction Marketing for a non-existent report.

The Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, subsequently investigated the growing scandal, releasing an explosive report in 2004, within which she used such words as “scandalous” and “appalling” to describe the Liberal government’s misuse of taxpayers’ dollars. Her report found that some $100 million had been spent solely for the purpose of enriching communications companies through commissions and fees, without producing any benefit for Canadians.

Fast forward a few years and the Liberals were thrown out of power. Chretien had resigned by then, leaving the mess to his successor Paul Martin Jr.. Martin, who naively thought that the Gomery Commission into the sponsorship scandal which he launched would clear him, didn’t last long as prime minister. He received a sound thrashing in the polls by Conservative leader Stephen Harper, who held office for a decade until being defeated in November 2015 by Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of the late and former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.


Justin Trudeau, a relatively new member of parliament (from Montreal) rode to power on a wave of anti-Harper sentiment, obtaining only 39% of the popular vote, but a significant majority of seats in the House of Commons. Victory was sweet for Trudeau, accompanied by his beautiful and extroverted wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau. It was Trudeau Mania déjà vu.

Well, the shine certainly comes off new political leaders quickly, sometimes surprisingly very fast. As if Justin Trudeau doesn’t have his hands full with a limping economy, stagnant wages, and an over-heated housing market with hugely indebted Canadians, combined with a new incoming president in the United States, he’s had to fend off an ethical problem that blew up in late November 2016.

Prime Minister Trudeau may not have broken any political financing laws when he attended a private $1,500 per plate fundraising event in May 2016, but it sure didn’t smell right, creating a strong perception of a lapse in ethical behaviour from Canada’s top political leader.

At the event were businessman Zhand Bin, president of the China Cultural Industry Association, a state-sanctioned group, and Shenglin Xian, president of Toronto-based Shenglin Financial. Following the event, Bin donated $1 million to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and the University of Montreal Faculty of Law. Xian, a past Liberal Party of Canada donor, was seeking to obtain final approval (a process initiated during the previous Conservative government) for starting up a Canadian branch of Wealth One Bank.


The Pierre Elliott Foundation has a history of being very careful about being politicized. Indeed, board members included former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl and NDP MP Megan Leslie. However, Strahl resigned his post when the story hit the media, accusing the Liberals of using him as their “foil.” And on December 13th, the National Post and other newspapers reported on the Trudeau Foundation possibly facing a conflict of interest probe, due to the huge increase in donations to it following Justin Trudeau’s election as prime minister.

As Conservative MP Blaine Calkins expressed: “The Liberals have an ethical problem following their own rules that the prime minister has set out for himself. He set the bar for his government’s ethical behaviour.” And NDP leader Thomas Mulcair stated: “Pay-for-access was supposed to be over once the Liberals came to power, and now we see that it’s continuing.”

The only other certainty in the world other than the sun rising to the east is politicians regularly having lapses in ethical judgement. It’s guaranteed. Period. Even for Sunny Ways Justin Trudeau. When a top leader, whether of a company, public institution or nation, espouses that he or she will practice sound ethical, transparent leadership, then the only direction to go is down with your followers. The only way to save your neck and to redeem yourself is to honestly admit that you screwed up and that you’ll work to ensure it never happens again.

Justin Trudeau didn’t do that in the case of the fundraiser. His aides went into spin control for him, and Trudeau never directly confronted the issue to admit that he had made a mistake. It doesn’t matter whether he was within the legal political boundaries of attending the event. Perception is reality in the eyes of followers, and not addressing an issue face-to-face only pulls the leader further into the mud.

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.
— Thomas Jefferson

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Kimberly-Clark’s Personality Quiz Attracts Young Talent

December 7, 2016


It’s time for a guest post on ChangingWinds; it’s been a while. Two areas of interest in my long work in the leadership-management fields have been human resources recruiting and the use of personality type indicators for management development and teambuilding. There are many indicators, some very complex, with others being more succinct instruments with which to obtain a general view of one’s personality characteristics. I recently learned of a recruiting initiative by Kimberly-Clark, a well known consumer products company for decades, whose products include Cottonelle, Kleenex, Depend, Viva and Scott.

Nina Martin, whose title is Dreamer, is part of Welcome Original Thinkers. As the caption on Welcome Original Thinkers states: “See how you can come join our team of bright, innovative minds.” Kimberly-Clark, as part of its growth, is reaching out to Millennials to attract smart, industrious people who want to make a difference. Check out this guest post from Nina.

Are you an original thinker? You can quickly find out by taking the Welcome Original Thinkers Quiz (WOTQuiz). I’m an Adaptor:

“You enjoy exploring every side of an issue and like a wicked great maestro you tease out the positive in each approach. Your resourcefulness and ability to easily adapt to the latest input often makes you the one who finds answers to the most challenging questions.”

What did you get? Please be sure to share your comments at the end.

Kimberly-Clark created a BuzzFeed-inspired quiz to help employees discover their own Original Thinker type. They’re then rewarded with an emoji badge suitable for social sharing, as well as an invitation to find out about original thinkers at Kimberly-Clark.

K-C 2.jpg

Kimberly-Clark is looking for bright, talented thinkers who are eager to explore ideas, solve problems and be part of collaborative teams and a performance-based culture that’s focused on being number one in its markets. The online WOTQuiz is intended to help prospective employees learn what kind of thinkers they are and in which jobs they’re most suited.

In the process of taking the test and exploring the Welcome Original Thinkers website, visitors to the website will discover that the 144-year-old paper and personal-care products company and its Neenah, Wisconsin, home base are cool. Moreover, Neenah and Kimberly-Clark offer a balance of life that’s probably more fulfilling than many other companies and locations.

Outside of location, Kimberly-Clark’s culture is one where employees can—and do—routinely turn their ideas into winning, profitable and life-changing solutions. So move over Silicon Valley, Austin TECHxas, and the Big Apple. Welcome original thinkers to Neenah, Wisconsin, where young creative chemical and product engineers can find the job of their dreams.

Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.
Chip Bell

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Giving Permission to Canada’s Racists

December 4, 2016

White Again.jpg

Canada, a country of some 36 million people, stretched mostly in a ribbon along the country’s southern border, despite its geography of 10 million square kilometres. A nation founded on immigrants, initially mostly from Europe and the United Kingdom, and in recent years increasingly from East Asia and South Asia. My dad immigrated to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1920 at the age of three.

That Canadians have been seen around the world as decent, polite people has not only become a fixture in the country’s self-perception but American comics have had a field day poking fun at their neighbours to the north. I recall a software engineer from South Korea who was a member of my former Toastmasters group. He was a quiet spoken fellow. However, he also proved to be very funny when he gave a club speech on Canada. His gentle pokes at Canadians’ propensity to constantly say “Excuse me” and “Sorry” weren’t not just humorous but really spoke to the country’s culture of what’s actually superficial politeness. Put a Canadian behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and you witness the morphing from docile, flat accented individual to raging lunatic.

Raging motorists aside, Canadians are on the whole still pretty decent people. Yet it’s also important to keep in mind that their southern neighbours are also decent folk, as I shared in a recent post Why America is Good and Great. Unfortunately, when you’re the biggest kid on the block who’s expected to serve a multitude of competing interests domestically and internationally, it’s easy to see why you’d come under daily criticism. Canadians have taken perverse pleasure in knocking down Americans and their political system in an indirect way to boost their own self-esteem.

As probably the world’s biggest voyeurs, Canadians’ favourite entertainment past-time during the last two years has not been NHL hockey, CFL football, or the performing arts (which draws far more people than these two sports combined) but rather watching the political spectacle in the United States. The culmination was the election of Donald J. Trump as President, an outcome that surprised many but in reality the writing was on the wall.


The Coastal Elites, as they’ve been dubbed, still haven’t pulled their heads out of the sand. And what’s been astonishing to watch is not the expected protests (and in some cases riots) across America but numerous protests in Canada. Indeed, some Canadians actually travelled to Florida in the dying days of the Trump-Clinton campaign to help the Democrats. One can imagine Americans reciprocating that gesture. Nothing’s worse than a pissed off beaver.

There have been numerous reports of racist incidents across the U.S. following November 8th. That’s not surprising. What is shocking is the jump in racial abuse being heaped at non-white Canadians in Canada. Coincidently at the time of writing this post, CNN political analyst (and political activist and former Obama White House advisor) Van Jones commented in an interview that Canada isn’t immune to the rise in hate incidents in western countries.

Within a span of just a few days after the U.S. election, numerous hate crime incidents occurred in such cities as Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa. Graphic hate graffiti, including swastikas (above photo), were spray painted on synagogs, churches and schools, including in my Ottawa west suburban community. In an interview with the media, Reverend Anthony Bailey talked about how his church, Parkdale United, was targeted by vandals: “The racial epithet that was used, it was directed at black people, myself as the pastor here. Some of the vitriol that has come from south of the border has emboldened people to say, ‘You know, I’ve harboured these sentiments for a long time, I feel permitted to do this now, to act it out.’”

A mosque was hit shortly afterwards. And around the same time that week, Ottawa’s Jewish community was on the receiving end, with three vandalisms. As Rabbi Idan Scher told CTV News: “These words are far more than just words. These words are representative and bring back very, very scary images in our history.”

Take a moment to read Rabbi Idan Scher’s powerful commentary Hate is Not Welcome in our City.


At a shopping mall in Hamilton, Ontario, Janice Lloyd was in a check-out line when a white man in his sixties turned around to face her. He showed her the front page of the newspaper which had Donald Trump’s face on it. He blurted out: “I’m glad he got in. I hope he cleans up the whole of North America.” The other shoppers in the line looked away. When Lloyd asked him what he meant by his statement, he replied: “You all shouldn’t even be here, you’re murderers and killers, you’re running around killing everybody, I hope he gets rid of all of you.”

In her interview with CBC News, Lloyd commented: “There was no raised voice or finger pointing in my face. Just a white man feeling he had the licence and permission to tell me exactly what he thought of black people—then casually walk away from me without a thought or care of the impact of his words. I fear the normalization of this kind of racist behaviour in our community.”

Note the word “normalization” that Janice Lloyd used. It’s key to understanding what’s taking place in gentle Canada. Sure, racism has been embedded in Canada ever since the country was created in 1867 and long before. It’s not news, except to a number of naive Canadians. However, for whatever reason, some Canadians now have self-empowered themselves by channelling Donald Trump’s xenophobic rants to their own perverted ends.

President-Elect Trump may be back-pedalling on a number of his statements made during both the Republican Primaries and Presidential Campaign, including some aimed at Mexicans and Muslims. However, he let the genie out of the bottle by making it permissible and safe for Americans to spout racial insults and threats. If a big-shot CEO can do it, a dude who’s been elected to the highest office in the world, then why can’t Joe Blow do it as well?


Here, in the Great White North, Canadians became WAY too involved in Trump theatre. While most Canadians have traditionally leaned towards the Democratic Party, a surprising number wanted to see Trump win. Reasons vary, but one only has to understand the dynamics of the Brexit referendum in the UK and the surprising June 23rd result to see how and why people even outside the U.S. supported Trump.

Donald Trump has given implicit permission to a subset of America to behave in unacceptable ways that are inconsistent with the country’s history of diversity.

The travesty of watching this debauched process unravel is how it has contaminated the spirit and values of a sovereign nation that happens to sit on the northern U.S. border. For not fully understood reasons, some Canadians (ie, white people) have self-initiated to express their resentment towards anyone without white skin.

To repel the rise in racism and bigotry in Canada, leaders at all levels need to engage. This isn’t just the responsibility of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It requires provincial premiers to speak up. It needs municipal mayors and councillors to get engaged since they’re closest to the community. It means that corporate leaders need to voice their support for strengthening Canada’s diversity. And it demands that individual Canadians must shun racism.

As the above photo says: “Make racists afraid again.”

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Why America is Good and Great

November 27, 2016


Negativity is corrosive. It eats away at one’s spirit, slowly weakening an individual’s outlook on life to the point that all seems to be lost. It’s a travesty to watch.

When it occurs at a collective level, such as within a community or even that of a nation, then a serious state has been embraced by citizens.

The United States of America, the world’s oldest contemporary democracy, has been undergoing a serious corrosion of its spirit and will to be the free leader of the planet. The two-year lead-up to the November 8th national election proved to be a national nightmare, out of a bad B-rated movie. And it wasn’t just an issue with the Republican Primaries and subsequent contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Primaries were a sordid testimony to deceit and manipulation, with the victim being Bernie Sanders and his supporters.

As if this two-year endurance test of people’s tolerance wasn’t bad enough, the results of the election have led to protests and riots not just across America but here in Canada. Not riots per se, but protests and numerous instances of racial abuse hurled at non-white Canadians. It’s sickening to read reports about this—Canada, allegedly the land of tolerance, opening its arms to immigrants.

But people have forgotten just how wonderful so many Americans are. Sure, in a country of some 320 million you’re going to encounter idiots, assholes and racists. Canada surely has its share, with a small population of 36 million. Americans are hugely generous people, as witnessed by $358 billion in donations in 2014.  According to GivingUSA this was the highest level reported in its 60 year history. In contrast, Canadians donated $12.8 billion in 2013 (Statistics Canada). That’s $350 per Canadian compared to $1,118 per American.

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Reflect on the kindness that’s shown on a daily basis by Americans towards one another, and especially those in need. For many years I’ve watched CBS Sunday Morning, an excellent program covering current events, arts, culture, entertainment and people. It’s the segments dealing with fascinating regular Americans that I find so captivating. These vignettes portray people who have conquered adversity, or helped those in periods of pain and despair, or unconditionally donated their time to improve something in their community.

Just recently on Sunday Morning, the last story was about an amazing man in Tampa, Florida, who self-initiated to clean the headstones of veterans. Andrew Lumish (pictured) arrives at a cemetery with a scrub brush, toothbrush (for detail work) and a plastic container of water. And he goes to it using good old fashioned elbow grease. The results of his work are amazing. One headstone dating back to 1917, covered in moss and dirt, looked new by the time he finished with it.

What drives a fellow like this to do this type of work? No one asked him to do it. He receives no compensation for his efforts. But he’s immensely satisfied with what has become his passion. As Lumish explained in his interview with CBS:

“If they can’t read it at all, they can’t celebrate it, they can’t honor that person, they can’t appreciate that person. Whereas if you properly restore the monuments, you can begin an entire conversation, and potentially—in a figurative sense—bring that person back to life.”

This is personal leadership in its finest form. No big-shot CEO or some prominent community leader getting the attention. Just a regular American fellow who doesn’t ask or expect anything in return for his efforts.


It’s unfortunate that most of the news stories we watch on TV or read in print or online deal with the negative. The motivating stories, such as the one shared above, are few and far between in the media—but they’re all around us every day. Indeed, the media can legitimately wear the label of purveyor of fear, narcissism and hate. Nowhere enough attention is given to those events and stories that reflect the goodness of the human spirit and what people can learn from expressions of kindness, love and generosity.

Again, it’s about personal leadership

If the United States is to turn the corner on this ugly episode in its 240 year history, then 320 million people will have to learn how to respect their differences while working towards the same vision of living in a wonderful country. A nation built on immigration, diversity, and hard work through entrepreneurship.

More positive story-telling is needed. There are so many good news and heart-warming stories across America that they would eclipse the negative if only allowed to be shared. Doing so would help stop the corrosion of a nation’s spirit and, hopefully, contribute to its rebirth through collective healing.

The journey in between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place.

—Barbara De Angelis

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Whole Lotta Frettin’ Goin’ On

November 20, 2016


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s thick dark locks must have stood up on end when the results of the U.S. Presidential election were finally in. As Canada’s 23rd prime minister, and second youngest in the country’s history, the 45 year-old Montrealer is only one year into his first term. But during this first year, he’s toured the globe and attended numerous meetings with heads of state. And along the way he made pals with the leader of the free world: President Barack Obama.  The two became bosom buddies, as did their spouses, Sofie Gregoire-Trudeau and Michelle Obama.

Unfortunately, becoming pals with the U.S. president can be a fleeting experience, worsened if that individual is at the end of a two-year term and if a national election changes the political party in power. What happened on November 8th is a game-changer for Canada. The big question is whether, on net, the election of Donald J. Trump will be good for Canada.

In the days following the election it was clear that, to borrow from rock ’n roller Jerry Lee Lewis, there’s a whole lotta frettin’ goin’ on in the Trudeau cabinet, notably with ministers holding such portfolios as immigration, trade, energy, foreign affairs, and environment.

Justin Trudeau Barack Obama

Like the vast majority of media pundits, pollsters, analysts, strategists and a long list of pseudo experts from the intelligentsia, it was assumed that Hillary Clinton would win the election and that she would carry on with the general thrust of President Obama’s agenda. One particular issue stands out: climate change and the attached-at-the-hip direction that the President and Prime Minister Trudeau have had on reducing carbon emissions. Just days before the election, Trudeau announced unexpectedly his plan to introduce a carbon tax that would increase over time. For provinces that haven’t initiated their own carbon taxes, the federal government will do it for them.

Trudeau’s announcement has been met mostly with positive reviews, though Saskatchewan’s Conservative premier (Brad Wall) went mildly apoplectic, as did Alberta’s NDP premier (Rachel Notley). All was good in the Great White North since, again, it was expected that Hillary Clinton would win. That scenario will never materialize, and in its place is a president-elect who has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in climate change, and indeed wants to allow oil and gas drilling on public lands, including national parks.

While addressing the effects of climate change on the environment is of vital strategic importance to the Trudeau government, this is but one of myriad challenges it’s facing. As one CBC journalist put it on November 11th in a CBC Ottawa Radio interview, the Trudeau government is not panicking, but fretting would be a good word.


Unfortunately, to borrow from another rock icon, Led Zeppelin, there’s unlikely to be a whole lotta love that’s going to be apparent between President Trump after inauguration day and Prime Minister Trudeau. If the prime minister were wise, he’d put down his smart phone and focus on Canada’s inter-connected, complex issues, instead of doing selfies with adoring fans. Canada’s longstanding relationship with the United States is THE most important issue on Trudeau’s plate, spanning cross-border trade (over $1 billion a DAY), security, defence, immigration, labour mobility, environment, energy, and so forth.

In his National Post column on November 14th, John Ivison referred to the Trudeau government “disintegrating like cheap toilet paper” in the context of the prime minister offering up to re-negotiate NAFTA. Or as Derek Burney, chief of staff to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, commented: “Naive would be a polite term.”

Prime Minister Trudeau’s one-year, post-election honeymoon was officially over on November 9th. It came unexpectedly and with a huge (or “Yuge” in Trumpian speak) imminent shift in direction for his government. Trudeau’s big problem is that he has some 230 election promises to fulfill; at last count (October 2016), media sources estimated that he’d fulfilled 34. And now a reality show host and real estate magnate has turned Trudeau’s political world upside down.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, a competent Alberta politician who served capably in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, stated on November 9th that Prime Minister Trudeau had better quickly re-think his carbon tax plan. Otherwise, it will “kneecap” Canada in how it attracts investment, companies and talent, in the context of its economic relationship with the U.S.

Yes, there’s undoubtedly a while lotta frettin’ goin’ on with Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet, and more broadly the Liberal caucus. Creating a solid working relationship with President-Elect Trump is absolutely critical. Trudeau’s mistake would be to not make this effort, reminiscent of Stephen Harper’s weak relationship with President Obama, or Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s similar weak effort with President G.W. Bush.

Let the love in, Prime Minister Trudeau.

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.

— Thomas Jefferson

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