A Leader’s Judgment is important

“Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau called the long-gun registry ‘a failure,’ during a campaign stop in the Conservative riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell on Friday.

‘The long-gun registry as it was, was a failure and I’m not going to resuscitate that,’ said Trudeau while visiting the DART Aerospace plant in Hawkesbury.

‘We will continue to look at ways of keeping our cities safe and making sure that we do address the concerns around domestic violence that happen right across the country, in rural as well as urban areas in which, unfortunately, guns do play a role.’

‘But there are better ways of keeping us safe than that registry which is, has been removed,’ said Trudeau.”

  • Trudeau calls long-gun registry ‘a failure’, by Susana Mas, CBC News, Last Updated: Dec 1, 2012 3:13 PM ET

When I was an Air Cadet, I learned a lot about leadership. At the time, the Canadian Forces defined leadership as “the art of influencing human behaviour so as to accomplish a mission in the manner so desired by the leader.” Therefore, if the mission is to take a hill, it is not important to just take the hill. Generally, speaking military leaders don’t want to use up all of their assets in missions. For, many of their assets are men and woman. These assets have been trained for years and military leaders might have met the asset’s families. 

Accordingly, many Military leaders will often care about the needs of their subordinates. It in many ways, this is an example of Leadership and Judgement. In the civilian world, if you like your boss – in this case your Commanding Officer or Officer –in-Command – you will likely perform better. Consequently, a Military Officer’s Judgement is important. If a subordinate has a good idea, Military Officers tend to accept it because an Officer’s ultimate goal is the completion of the mission. This tendency is trained into them and this is why the Military is often called into difficult situations.

Given my personal experiences, in my present life, I expect the same level of forethought from people who are in leadership positions. Therefore, while I don’t expect perfection, I do expect exceptional judgment and this is what I am looking for in the upcoming Liberal Leadership Race: Exceptional Judgment. The person who demonstrates that will likely receive my support, if they are running first or twenty first. I just hope the person that I support is running for first.

With this being said, to date, I have been disappointed by the Political Judgment of Mr. Trudeau. While, he seems to be a good constituent MP, he does not show the characteristics of a strong National Leader. At this point, I will not bring up his past controversies or apologies. Today, I will only talk about his present statements on the Long Gun Registry. It is reported that he said that “the long-gun registry as it was, was a failure and I’m not going to resuscitate that.” However, in the same breath, he said “we will continue to look at ways of keeping our cities safe and making sure that we do address the concerns around domestic violence that happen right across the country, in rural as well as urban areas in which, unfortunately, guns do play a role.”

While he has gone back and clarified the original statement, the original statements have an obvious policy problem: the only way to effectively limit gun violence is to provide restrictions on all gun ownership. There are two different types of gun ownership: owners of legal guns and owners of illegal held guns. Illegal guns might be illegal because they have been stolen, smuggled across the border, altered or used in the commission of a crime. The problem is that reducing the amount of illegally held guns requires a police officer to be able to easily identify the difference between an illegal and a legal gun. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police’s understands this. That is why they were strongly supportive of the Chrétien Government’s implementation of the infamous Gun Registry.  For example, Edgar MacLeod, former president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, states that “while the cost of the registry had become an embarrassment, the program works and provides a valuable service. In a typical domestic violence situation,” he says, “investigating police officers rely on the registry to determine if guns are present. Onboard computers in police cruisers, or a call to central dispatch, alerts [sic] officers to any firearms registered to occupants of the house.” This point of view comes to the fore because by having a registry, the situation becomes clear: registered guns by definition are legal and everything else is illegal.

In many ways, the Gun Registry in concept is similar to our Driving Regime in Canada. To drive a car, Provinces require that a number of certifications are held. They include Driver’s Licences, Car Registration, Car Vehicle Identification Number, Provincial Licence Plates, Car Insurance and where necessary a Vehicle Inspection. Just as vehicle and driver registration does not prevent speeding, drunk driving, hit and run incidents or other driving infractions, Gun Registries were not meant to prevent crime per say. What they do, though, is allow officials to reduce the number of guns and ensure there is a distinction between legal and illegal guns. Like Busking Licenses in Calgary or Pet Licenses in Toronto, by the distinction – and therefore ownership classes – one can begin to regulate behaviour.

While it might seem to be important, these distinctions mean that improper behaviour can have consequences. Take a look at Calgary’s Pet By-Law. It has a two stage process. In their own words, “we strive to obtain voluntary compliance to municipal bylaws by using education first and then enforcement.” The same is true with most registries. For Governments would rather have people follow a law than spend a lot of money to enforce it. Therefore, with that being said, one can see that the Registry is a viable policy choice. It stretches credibility to claim otherwise.

In saying that there are “better ways of keeping us safe than that registry which is, has been removed,” one has to ask what they are. For example, the Americans freewheeling approach to gun control has not been taken up by any other country in the world. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, in 2011, approximately 47% of American households had a gun in them.

With such high gun position rates, it is not a surprise that the United States is responsible for “over 80 percent of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us?” (It’s the Guns – But We All Know, It’s Not Really the Guns, by Michael Moore, Huffington Post.com, Posted: 07/24/2012 9:45 pm) To Michael’s Question, one answer comes to mind: regulation. Regulation enforces norms on Gun Owners, norms which exist in Canada, Germany, UK and France.

These norms of behaviour simply do not come from growing up with guns. As a Cadet, I received a limited exposure to guns. That limited exposure taught me to respect Guns. I would argue that one does not have to be guarded by the RCMP to understand that guns need to be respected. My respect for guns came from a culture of appreciation and respect: a military culture created by strict regulation and enforcement.

Accordingly, to say that the gun registry no purpose is, in my mind, bogus. If someone did not want to have the new rules apply to them, they could surrender the weapon in question. The same would be true if a citizen had a car they no longer wanted or if they no longer wanted to pay property taxes on a property that they do not use.

In those rare times that a weapon is a family heirloom, there would be options. They could register the firearm or have it donated to a museum. In fact, if the Chrétien Government could have been faulted for anything, it would be the lack of options available to Canadians who wished to own a gun but not have the hassle of complying with all of the regulations. For example, a Museum of Canadian Gun History could have been created to store and tell the stories of these Canadian Guns. Furthermore, a Crown Corporation could have been created that would allow people to store their guns and use them. This Crown Corporation could have been like a ‘Trust’ or a ‘Bank’: safely storing guns at cost. In fact, such a Crown Corporation or Regulated Private Provider could have a shooting range if a person just wanted to shoot at targets and not hunt. However, those are details which could have been added to what was the existing programme.

All of this reasoning brings one thing into mind: the Judgment of Trudeau’s words and the policy choices that he would want to make as leader. If one takes the original comments or the backtracked explanation, one has to ask the question of what does he believe in or what is his vision.

The Conservative Party has made it clear that in their Judgment the loss of liberty is unacceptable. However, to them I would ask if they want to get rid of all licensing. To date, in Canada, to sell insurance and mutual funds products, one must be licensed and registered. The same is true for those who practice law, medicine and engineering. One needs to have a passport to travel and a driver’s licence to drive. Therefore, we limit people in all sorts of way in Canada. If the issue is one of Liberty, I can ask them why registering a gun, is different. They will have to explain themselves to the public and this will show their Judgement and their feelings on the issue of Liberty.

For at the end of the day, this is what it means to live in a free society. It is balancing the issue of Liberty for you and for me. It is about caring for the other and ensuring that the best benefit is available to the most amount of people; without limiting individuals too much. The Conservatives have their view. Liberals have theirs and I have mine. However, what is Mr. Trudeau’s view? This is the question for Mr. Trudeau and it is for him to show his Judgment on a number of issues. Today, it is easy to say that he is a contender; but it is equality clearly that has a Judgment deficit. It is up to him to change that opinion in the time that he has left or he might lose the race.

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3 thoughts on “A Leader’s Judgment is important

  1. Good post. I guess what you’re talking about is finding a balance between adjusting Liberal positions to perceived changes in the political landscape and not cutting the ground out from under the Liberal troops. Agree that Trudeau seems to have particular trouble with this. Sometimes he even seems to be to the right of Harper.

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    1. In part. It seems to me that a Party Leader should be able to state a position without having to apologize or clarify it. He or she should be able to appeal to their base and grow it. Furthermore, that leader should be able to understand where they stand and state it clearly. While I recognize we are all human and we all make mistakes, the level of mistakes with Trudeau is puzzling at best and alarming at worst. I am curious if this will change. I hope – for his sake – it does.

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