Maddie Di Muccio

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How a Political Leader should deal with setback

Posted on October 30, 2014 at 11:55 AM

The similarities are startling.

Two conservative parties languishing in opposition. Both parties are struggling to gain a foothold within the urban centres of their respective provinces. A series of by-elections and winnable seats are lost. Questions about the leadership of the party.

This was the situation in 2013 for Tim Hudak on the heels of losing 4 out of 5 seats on August 1st, 2013. The winning seat, Doug Holyday’s, was more attributable to Rob and Doug Ford’s activism in campaigning for their candidate than Hudak’s leadership. The Ontario PC’s lost winnable seats in Scarborough Guildwood, Ottawa South and London West.

At the time, I wrote in the Toronto Sun that it was imperative Hudak face the membership on the leadership question at the upcoming September 2013 policy convention. There was nothing in the party rules that required Hudak to do so - but if he would have taken my advice, then he could have put the leadership question to rest:

Instead, Hudak got defensive.

He surrounded himself with only his closest loyalists and he stopped listening to anyone else. This “Hudak Bunker” mentality ultimately lead to his disastrous springtime campaign, where he didn't share the party’s platform with even his own MPPs. Just ask former Barrie MPP Rod Jackson what if felt like to be as shocked as everyone else in the room full of media as Hudak surprised everyone with news of his plans to cut 100,000 civil servant jobs.

The end results – a Kathleen Wynne Liberal majority – could have been avoided only if the leader was someone other than Tim Hudak.

Fast forward to the by-elections in Alberta held earlier this week. The Wild Rose Party was desperate to win at least one seat of the four contests, but didn't succeed in any - and some insiders doubt whether party leader, Danielle Smith, can ever win in urban Alberta.

Instead of following Hudak’s example, Smith has taken the fight to the doubters. She's asked that a leadership review be included in next month’s Wild Rose Party’s convention, explaining that she needs to exceed 77% approval or she’ll walk.

It’s a bold, smart move.

It puts the question forward and ensures all doubts will be settled before the province heads to the polls in 2015.

It’s a savvy and fine example of what a leader should do after a serious set back. Smith has taken the bad news and used it to her advantage instead to show strength and integrity.

I have to admit my bias and say that I personally have admired and respected the Wild Rose Party Leader for many years. Looking into my crystal ball, I expect that Danielle Smith will receive resounding approval from her members and will see a similar bump in the opinion polls for accepting responsibility for the outcomes of the by-elections and putting her job on the line.



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