Opinion

MERRIAM: ‘Dalton Gang’ will ride off into history

By Jim Merriam, Toronto Sun

One of my faithful readers has never liked the “Dalton Gang” label that I pasted on the current provincial government.

Although she’s never said so, I think she likes the gang better than the name. In other words she seems to have a pro-Liberal bias.

Either way she’s in for some relief in a week’s time when the Dalton Gang will cease to exist as a new leader takes over. It’s anybody’s guess which of the two women running to succeed Premier Dalton McGuinty will win the Liberal leadership, although it’s almost certain to be one of them.

The also-rans in the race are Gerard Kennedy, Harinder Takhar, Charles Sousa and Eric Hoskins.

Neither Sandra Pupatello nor Kathleen Wynne, the front-runners, carries a name that lends itself to mockery in the way that Dalton did.

The easy punch of the “Dalton Gang” is about the only thing about the current government that a lot of us in rural Ontario — including a large number of former Liberals — are going to miss when McGuinty’s retirement becomes official.

In the race to pick a leader to replace him, most of the delegates already are lined up for the first ballot, with the two aforementioned candidates in the lead.

However, after that ballot delegates are free to move to any other camp they choose and it’s at that point that the horse race really begins.

The movement of delegates and the possibility that candidates will withdraw in favour of a rival makes for lots of drama and good TV.

Sometimes a delegate supports a second choice because of personal conviction, sometimes he just follows the movement of his first-choice candidate and occasionally he makes his decision because the right worker from the right campaign got to him at the right moment.

Getting to him might mean a private talk with the candidate.

Or it could be that a junior campaign worker showed up at his door at the right moment with a bag of popcorn.

All told, it’s not much of a way to run a railroad.

So many other factors must be considered in choosing a new leader for a province that doesn’t appear even to be trying to climb the slippery slope out of the dark pit and back to prosperity.

Policy and platform of course are considerations because a delegate who thinks teachers already are overpaid would not want to support a candidate ready to open the vault and shovel more money at them.

Personality also is a factor.

Has the candidate got the interpersonal skills and diplomacy to get things done through dealings with others?

Last but far from least is the need for leadership abilities. All the policy pronouncements in the world won’t tell you how a new leader will respond to an entirely new situation.

Here’s Wikipedia on the issue: “Leadership is ‘organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.’ The leader may or may not have any formal authority.

Studies of leadership have produced theories involving traits situational interaction, function, behaviour, power, vision and values, charisma, and intelligence, among others. Somebody whom people follow: somebody who guides or directs others.”

As much as we’d like the Ontario Liberals to choose a leader with a name that fits in headlines and is easy to poke fun at, we all should be far more concerned about a leader with the right abilities.

The main characteristic is leadership.

jmerriam@bmts.com


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