Media

O’Leary is all about return on investment

No Comments 31 May 2017

And Kevin O’Leary discovered that political life is really a lot more difficult than most business people realize.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, May 1, 2017.

OTTAWA—Kevin O’Leary is not the first business person to stare politics in the face, and back away.

And he most certainly won’t be the last.

The annals of history are littered with the remains of high rollers lured from business or academia for a short-lived political flirtation.

In some cases, defeat was inflicted by the electorate. Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff had all the credentials of a winner.  

Bright, articulate, and photogenic, he was convinced to leave a prestigious job at Harvard University because political operatives convinced him he could be the next prime minister.

Like Ignatieff, O’Leary was living in the United States when he fell victim to the lure of politics.

He, too, had deep Canadian roots, and was convinced that his business background and pedigree as an outsider was enough to put him in the running to become the next prime minister of Canada.

Unlike Ignatieff, O’Leary had zero command of the French language, but he naively insisted this would have no effect on his leadership bid.
 
But after little more than three months on the hustings, O’Leary took a second look at his political standing and bowed out. In doing so, he left behind thousands of new Conservative members who had signed up on line with the expressed purpose of making him their next leader.

O’Leary was widely touted as the Donald Trump of the North. In Trump’s case, he parlayed his outsider status into a plus, surprising the pundits and the world by winning the American electoral college, and thus securing the presidency of the United States.

In O’Leary’s exit statement, he claimed that his reason for stepping down was that he could not see a clear path to victory against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

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Media

Canadian babies cry because they can

No Comments 22 May 2017

My take on Canadian baby whiners is that, in a single generation, we have turned children into the centre of our universe, instead of encouraging them to become a part of ours.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, April 24, 2017.

OTTAWA—‘Boo hoo: Canadian babies cry more.’

That intriguing headline in The Globe and Mail caught my eye the other day, and necessitated a more in-depth review.

The article by Wency Leung published recently in the Journal of Pediatrics. examined a British study of world meta-data comparing 8,700 babies in the first month of life.

It claimed that 34 per cent of Canadian babies cried more than three hours a day at least three days a week.

That level of discomfort, medically characterized as colic, puts Canada on the top of the heap when it comes to baby whiners.

Even other northern countries were not close, with only 5.5 per of Danish babies and 6.7 per cent of German newborns suffering the same discomfort.

What followed was a compelling analysis of some potential, and inconclusive scientific reasons behind the high level of colic amongst Canuck babies.

I am no scientist, but after a quarter century in active politics, I consider myself a student of the social sciences. So what follows, is a political take on why Canadian babies cry.

Because they can.

From the moment they are born, modern Canadian babies become the centre of their parents’ universe.

In many instances, that means the condition for getting kids to sleep involves the selfless rocking of upset babies until they finally collapse exhausted into their parents’ arms.

Sleep issues continue for many Canadian children well into adolescence. The self-help sections of most bookstores are replete with tomes on how to conquer the sleep problem when children simply won’t.
 
My take on Canadian baby whiners is that, in a single generation, we have turned children into the centre of our universe, instead of encouraging them to become a part of ours.
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Media

Power of one young woman’s voice rocked the world last week

No Comments 17 May 2017

When Malala Yousafzai received her honorary citizenship, the diminutive speaker did not mince words. She even dared to use the ‘f’ word, calling on all Canadians to become feminists.

By SHEILA COPPS

Published first in The Hill Times on April 17, 2017.

OTTAWA—The power of one young woman’s voice rocked the world last week.

When Malala Yousafzai received her honorary citizenship, the diminutive speaker did not mince words. She even dared to use the “f” word, calling on all Canadians to become feminists.

Her delivery was gentle, but the content was carefully crafted to make the ultimate point. And it did.

She underscored that if all girls around the world went to school for 12 years, low and middle income countries could add $92-billion to their economies.

She also made the link between education and peace. “When a country gives all its children secondary education, they cut their risk of war in half.”

Yousafzai also had gentle digs for Canada and the United States. She emphasized that “the world needs leadership based on serving humanity, not based on how many weapons you have.” That contradicted the decision by American President Donald Trump to cut foreign aid and increase the military budget by 10 per cent increase.

Canada, while praised for the prime minister’s decision to invoke cabinet parity, did not escape comment for promises not kept.

The country has endorsed sustainable development goals which set our percentage of support for international aid at 0.7 per cent. But last year, funding contributions dropped as a percentage of our gross domestic product. Malala acknowledged that politicians make some promises that cannot be kept, but warned “this is one you must honour.”

She called on the prime minister to make 12-year education of girls a top priority during his 2018 tenure at the helm of the G7. She also linked education to the world security agenda, insisting that “extremism grows alongside inequality – in places where people feel they have no opportunity, no voice and no hope.”

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Media

It’s time for a national portrait gallery

No Comments 09 May 2017

If one picture is worth a thousand words, a national portrait gallery trumps a television script any day.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, April 10, 2017.

 

OTTAWA—If one picture is worth a thousand words, a national portrait gallery trumps a television script any day.

As Canada moves through the celebration of our 150th birthday, the government is swamped with ideas for the celebration of our shared story.

History is seen through different eyes by different regions of the country. Throw in language polemics, and you have a potentially incendiary mix.

Such was the reaction to the first couple of episodes of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s television series entitled: The Story of Us.

The first episode provoked a quick response from Atlantic Canada, disputing the show’s claim that the first French settlement on the continent was in Quebec City in 1608.

The Acadians, who established a permanent presence at Port-Royal three years earlier, were particularly aggrieved, and Nova Scotia’s premier is demanding a rewrite of the miniseries.

In response to critics, CBC said that 75 historians were consulted on the project.

Producers also endured the challenge of trying to engage a modern audience, which necessitates some poetic licence.

The narrative of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was recounted by none other than world-famous extreme fighter Georges St-Pierre.

After all, history has to be interesting enough for the millennial viewer to watch.

That might mean some liberties are taken with literal interpretation of the facts surrounding the formation of Canada.

Which leads me to the question of pictures.
 
Another “Big Picture” proposal which has been under consideration for the 150th birthday party is the National Portrait Gallery.

Much work on the concept started two decades ago, when then Liberal Senator Jerry Grafstein spearheaded a unique transformation for the soon-to-be-vacated American Embassy directly across from Parliament Hill.

U.S. president Bill Clinton opened the new American Embassy on Sussex Drive back in 1999. That relocation offered the possibility of a new vocation for the beautiful, Beaux-Arts edifice ideally located steps from the Parliamentary Precinct.

The portrait gallery project took the capital by storm and had unanimous support from all sides.
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Media

Odd, but Brexit debate offered up a sexism wakeup call last week

No Comments 05 May 2017

Why is it considered fair game to make light of women’s body parts, especially in the context of a political negotiation?

By SHEILA COPPS

First published in The Hill Times on Monday, April 3, 2017.

OTTAWA—If ever the world needed a sexism wake-up call, the Brexit debate offered it up last week.

Just as two leaders were meeting to tackle the thorny issue of the United Kingdom’s divorce from the European Union, the best a British tabloid could do was serve up a piece on the shape of the leaders’ legs. “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!,” the headline read, “Sarah Vine’s light-hearted verdict on the big showdown.”

Worse than even committing the sexist sin was The Daily Mail’s defence of its piece, admonishing upset readers to “get a life.”

One cannot imagine a “light-hearted piece” comparing the size of U.S. President Donald Trump’s butt cheeks with those of Vladimir Putin.

So why is it considered fair game to make light of women’s body parts, especially in the context of a political negotiation?

The Daily Mail’s piece served its purpose, reducing the seriousness of the conversation to a seduction attempt using women’s best weapons, sexy legs. In so doing, it trivialized the gravitas required to successfully negotiate the extraction of the United Kingdom from the rest of Europe.

The Brexit opening salvo last week involved British Prime Minister Theresa May triggering clause 50, in a six-page letter stating her intentions for a proposed departure from the EU within two years.
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© 2017 Sheila Copps.