Posts tagged ‘politics’

Bob Goulais for Chief?

Is it time for spirited, youthful and energetic leadership in Nipissing?


Apparently, there’s one question on everyone’s minds: “Are you running for Chief?”

Well, it is that time again. Here in Nipissing First Nation, we have our election for Chief and Council every three years.

To be perfectly honest, running for Chief is something that I’d really like to consider at some point in my life. I can certainly bring a lot to the table for the benefit of you, my Nbisiing family.  For example:

  • Spirited Leadership. Is it time for spirited, youthful and energetic leadership in Nipissing? I think so. I could bring my years of experience and integrity in working with First Nations and Aboriginal political organizations at the highest levels.
  • Community Vision. Having vision is keeping an eye to the future of our community, for families, women, students and youth – all to the Seventh Generation. Community vision should be all about health and well-being, education, social development, economic development and enabling a good life, Mno-Bimaadiziwin, for all our citizens.
  • Competency & Ability. Offering the work ethic, experience, skill set and capability to deliver results. Period.  I can also offer my proven experience in executive management, as a transformer and an agent of change, while generating some excitement and instilling pride in our community.  (If you haven’t seen my qualifications, you can check it out.)
  • Bridge Building. Years of proven results as a professional communicator, community facilitator, negotiator and traditional teacher. It also helps to be an effective public speaker and motivator that keeps everyone on their toes.
  • Unmatched Network. I’d be pleased to share an unmatched network of influential Chiefs, Cabinet Ministers, public policy leaders and influential Canadians.
  • Building Economies. It’s essential to have the vision and capability to build our economy, create jobs, support small business, all without risking Mother Earth, our sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • Nbisiing Anishinaabe. It is so rewarding to be living my life as an Anishinaabe man, with the guidance of our Elders and traditional teachers, with a dedication to our language, culture and values that are important to our community.

My family and I haven’t decided if I’m going to run for Chief. The answer to that question will also come from you.

Do you feel I have the tools to be an effective leader for our community? Is it time for someone to step up and bring some vision, excitement and energy to this position? I’m looking for your ideas and thoughts that may help me contemplate such a decision.

G’chi miigwetch, niikaanisidook. I am so thankful for all your kind words of confidence, support and encouragement. I sincerely look forward to hearing from all of you.

Please reach out to me by e-mail:, phone (705) 805-9242, or message me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Yours, in Friendship & Nationhood.

Bob Goulais



FNs Need To Be More Strategic, Politically Saavy

Chris Wattie/Reuters Photo

For weeks, I’ve been telling anyone that will listen, that realistically, this Prime Minister will only be attending the Crown-First Nations Gathering tomorrow in Ottawa for a grand total of thirty minutes.  Mark my words, the Prime Minister will take part in the opening ceremony, give his ten minute speech, and listen to the first couple of speeches.  However, he will depart within the hour.  Meanwhile, he will not have heard from the hundreds of Chiefs and their supporters that will be descending into Ottawa today as we speak.

That’s really par for the course for Mr. Harper when it comes to addressing Aboriginal issues such as poverty, education, economic development, the housing crisis, and missing and murdered Aboriginal women.  Any proactive, ambitious or comprehensive solution are just not in his bag of tricks nor what is being expected of his core constituents.

Needless to say, there are going to be a lot of disappointed Chiefs who have spend countless hours refining their speaking notes in anticipation of an audience with the PM.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) should have anticipated this situation and prepared to make better use of those precious few minutes.

In hindsight, if I was the National Chief, I would have used the annual AFN Special Chiefs Assembly held in December to bring First Nations together to develop a singular message with a corresponding action plan for the Prime Minister’s consideration.  This could have been brought to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) ahead of time for further strategic discussion prior to this week’s gathering.  This Crown-First Nations Gathering could then have been used for goal setting and implementation discussions between Ministers and officials.  Instead of bringing all these Chiefs to Ottawa this week, First Nations could have empowered National Chief Shawn Atleo with their message.

Sure, the National Chief will request a First Minister’s Meeting tomorrow.  Prime Minister Harper may very well agree to it.  But needless to say, the exercise of bringing all these Chiefs, Councillors and support staff to Ottawa will be unnecessary and unproductive.  I’m sure some simple-minded commentator will point out that these wasted resources could have been used to build a few more houses in Attawapiskat.

The modern day tradition of having First Nations Chiefs lining up at the microphones to speak to politicians is not very effective, nor strategic.  The reality is that our First Nations leaders are no longer cutting edge, inspirational orators.  They’re purveyors of tired, political rhetoric.

That reminds me of the times I took part in preparing for the annual meeting held between First Nations and the Ontario Premier.  Prior to each meeting, the Political Confederacy of Ontario led by the Chiefs of Ontario would develop a slide deck of key messages, and then divvy up the messaging among the Grand Chiefs.  Good plan, right?  Makes sense, sure.  Keep in mind the meeting is scheduled for one hour.

The meeting would proceed with an ever-so brief welcome from Premier Dalton McGuinty, five minutes, tops.  Followed by an introduction of the issues by the Ontario Regional Chief.  That almost always does a bit too long.  Each Grand Chief’s appointed section would also go over schedule.  Almost always, an unannounced Chief would come forward to speak to an important issue of the day, but in turn, taking up another unexpected, unscheduled fifteen minutes.  The meeting would result in little dialogue with the Premier but include plenty of complex messaging, background, context, examples and, of course, rhetoric.  Almost always, there are far too many issues, very few solutions, all wrapped into a whole lot of “rights-based” political rhetoric.  (Somebody ask Mr. McGuinty or his Cabinet what “rights-based” means and they wouldn’t have the faintest clue.)

As First Nations, we need to learn to be more savvy politicians.  We need to be far more strategic and opportunistic.  I disagree with those who state there is no need for the AFN or for Chiefs to be involved.  Actions plans don’t just happen, they need to be developed then implemented.  But this needs to be done in a much more strategic way.  Do we have goals, objectives and timelines?  Do we have workplans and required resources to achieve a political goal?  Do we have strategies to get there?  Goals shouldn’t only be “rights-based” they need to be solutions-based.

As The Byrds and Kevin Bacon tell us, there is a time for every purpose.  There is a time for talk – when it leads to fruitful discussion.  There is a time for speeches – when it leads to inspiration and understanding.  Indeed, there is a time for photo opps, when solutions are being implemented.

In this case, we only have thirty minutes with the Prime Minister.  How will the National Chief and First Nations use their time?

Day 2: Commentary on Twitter & The Left Side of Me


My good friend Tony Belcourt has found his way to Twitter.  It’s nice to see my friends Dwayne, Allan and Perry on there too.  But it’s a lonely world for the average Anishinaabe in the vast Twitter universe.

Just recently I started using Twitter more and more.  I thought it might be a great way to bring in visitors and traffic onto the Anishinaabe Blog.  It’s a bit of a struggle with only 26 followers.  Most Nish are on Facebook right now and haven’t found their way to Twitter, much less @BobGoulais.  And I don’t think @HowardStern, @Charlie Sheen and @Rosie (O’Donnell) are really going to encourage their millions of followers to read about little-ole-me.

But like many people, Twitter and Blogs are a great way to speak your mind on issues and attempt to affect change.

In a bout of insomnia last night, I thought I’d send the message “Election commentary from a First Nations perspective. Follow: @BobGoulais #cdnpoli #lpc #elxn41“.  This includes search tags for Canadian Politics, Liberal Party of Canada and 41st General Election.  Low and behold I got five new subscribers.  But beyond the shameless plug, I thought this is an excellent way to express myself during the election and possible reach a whole new audience.

Beginning today, I’ll be Tweeting my commentary on the federal election.  What’s my angle…  I’ll be doing this from the First Nations perspective.


I’ll try to provide some balanced commentary, but that would require a balanced agenda.  The First Nations agenda drives my views to the Liberal Party of Canada side.

Socially, I feel quite a bit of left of centre.  Unfortunately, in most ridings, a vote for the NDP and the Greens are as good as a vote for the Conservatives.  Given our multi-party system, strategically, this is a statistical fact.  I’ve even toyed with jumping ship to the NDP, but where I’m from, that ship usually sinks before leaving port.

I’m going to go out on a limb here.  I still cherish by purple “Coalition.  Yes!” sign from 2008.  I attended the rally and drank the purple Kool-Aid.  It may have been because of that cold December day, but I wasn’t that warm to including the Bloc into the fray.  I think courting the separatists is bad news for First Nations in Quebec.  But for a left-leaning, First Nations man, the marriage of the Liberals and the NDP is a bit of a fantasy.

I may not be tried and true socialist, but I think I would value progressive, contemporary socialism.  So when Dion and Layton began talking a Coalition, it really made sense to me.  Coalition governments are common around the world.  It can be an effective way of governing and getting things done.  So much better than the anti-democratic, partisan style of the Harper government.

If we take the concept even further, perhaps we need to examine the possibility of “linking the left”.  For me, that would involve the complete merging of the Libs and NDP.  But that isn’t likely won’t happen.  But how about a formal coalition from election to forming the government?  Each party agree to work together, come up with a set of common values and determine which candidates would show the best success.  Only one candidate would run in each riding.  This would certainly offer a clear alternative to the minority quagmire we’ve been going through.  It would also provide a one-window alternative to the fundamentalist, tea-party, conservative dictatorship that a Harper majority would likely pose.

Day 1: Five Candidates To Watch Out For

So the government has been defeated (hurray!!) and the election campaign is in full swing (oh no, not again?!).  The question is: who should we support?

Having worked with many parliamentarians over the years, I’ve learned not to judge a book by their cover.  After they’re all good at shaking hands and kissing babies.  Rather, as an Anishinaabe man, I like to make my mind up by getting to know them as a person.  Through these personal experiences, I’m able to determine a candidate’s integrity by the way their treat people.  During candid moments, you’re able to see how they speak about issues and people behind the scenes.  Sure the Conservative Party has a few.  You can really judge a party by their grass-roots candidates.  Here’s five candidates to watch out for:

Karen Mock

Dr. Karen Mock – Thornhill
Follow @KarenMock on Twitter

One of the most delightful and worthy candidates in the 905, Dr. Karen Mock is a lifelong advocate for race relations. I first met Karen in her capacity of Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. She also served as National Director of the B’nai Brith and is considered a beacon in the Canadian Jewish community.  A kind spirit, Karen always maintains a friendly, humbly demeanor. She is facing Conservative incumbent Peter Kent, who I consider a curt opposite of Karen. He has the polished exterior of someone who has read from a teleprompter all his life. Based on personality alone, Karen shines. Add in her skills and experience, Karen has the potential to be a strong and influential MP. Just as the Conservatives are courting the “ethnic vote” in their smug, disingenuous manner – Karen is a sincere representative of the people, elected or not.

Anthony Rota

Anthony Rota – Nipissing-Timiscaming
Follow @AnthonyRota on Twitter

Anthony turns up at the most interesting places! It was a pleasure to see him at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto a couple of weeks back. I know Anthony fairly well, so I can personally vouch for his work ethic, values and commitment to his job as MP. He has certainly been an effective advocate for Nipissing-Timiscaming. He has stood up for the north, and in particular, ensuring that FedNor continues to contributing to the economic development of Northern Ontario. Anthony serves as the national caucus chair for the Liberals in Ottawa, and goes above and beyond for his constituents.


Ruby Dhalla

Dr. Ruby Dhalla – Brampton-Springdale
Follow: @MPRubyDhalla on Twitter

When compared with the partisan, mean-spirited values of some Parliamentarians across the floor, someone like Ruby Dhalla is a shining star.  One of the youngest women ever to be elected to the House of Commons, she also made history as the first South Asian woman to be elected into public office in the western world. She is a strong and effective champion for youth and women’s issues. But don’t get me wrong, she can also be a tenacious MP.  She would be an excellent Cabinet Minister when the Liberals ascend to government. Ruby is looking to hold on to her 905 riding she has held since 2004.

Christine Innes

Christine Innes – Trinity Spadina
Follow: @ChristineInnes on Twitter

Christine is a breath of fresh air. Already one of the hardest working Liberal candidates in Toronto, she’s looking to unseat Olivia Chow in Trinity-Spadina. She may live in the city, but she’s got small town heart.  Intensely loyal to her friends, Christine always means what she says. And boy… she Loves to talk politics!  Anytime, anyday.  She’s got a strategic mind and would be a valuable part of the Liberal caucus in Ottawa. Christine also has an immense knowledge of Aboriginal issues, having served as Chief of Staff for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs for Ontario.


Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimeax
Follow @CynthiaWesley on Twitter

It was touch and go for a few weeks, as Cynthia explored the possibility of being Chief in her home community of Georgina Island. Luckily for the Liberal Party, Cynthia is ready for the race in York Simcoe. Cynthia, who worked as an Assistance Professor with the University of Toronto is one of the foremost experts on Aboriginal social issues. She routinely provides aboriginal awareness training to government and the private sector and has appeared as a regular panelist on TVO’s The Agenda. Cynthia is also an honest, caring woman who would be an excellent MP and representative for her riding.