Identify and deal with the real problem instead of being content to focus on solving the political problem by throwing money at it and engaging in photo ops and partisan attacks on those who disagree with you: Let’s face it, in the 21 st Century our leaders ― especially our political leaders ―are incapable of identifying and dealing with real problems. Whether the blame lies with our representatives because they’re so lacking in the necessary gravitas, vision, or perception, or with the media who seem to like to reduce everything ― especially complex issues ― to its lowest common denominator, or our education system which, as far as I can see, checked out a long time ago when it comes to giving future generations a good, solid grounding for taking on the world and making decisions that will affect both the present and the future … I just don’t know.
As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Stephen Skyvington.
Stephen is one of Canada’s pre-eminent political pundits. His columns have appeared regularly in newspapers all across Canada, under the banner Opinions and Observations. For five years, Stephen did a weekly radio segment on NEWSTALK 1010 every Saturday with Ted Woloshyn. Formerly the manager of government relations for the Ontario Medical Association, where he spent six and a half years lobbying elected officials and civil servants at all three levels of government, Stephen is currently the president of PoliTrain Inc., a public relations firm he founded in 2001, specializing in leadership development and candidate training, lobbying and crisis management. In addition to being a full-time registered lobbyist, who has been involved in politics since 1988 (having worked in constituency offices and ministers’ offices and being a part of numerous leadership and election campaigns, both as a volunteer and a “hired gun”), Stephen also has a great deal of experience in community and stakeholder relations, as well as media and government relations.
His first book, This May Hurt A Bit: Reinventing Canada’s Healthcare System, was published February 2019 by Dundurn Press.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As I like to tell young people, whenever or wherever I’ve been invited to give a talk at either a university, college or high school, I’m a good example of what happens when you don’t have a plan from which to build a solid foundation. To make a long story short, I was a graphic artist who had the good fortune of being mentored by a wonderful art teacher in high school, who taught me many of the things I would’ve learned at a traditional art college after graduating. So, I decided to attend university instead and pursue a liberal arts education ― in the form of a combined
Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Education degree. While there, I took up photography and writing, eventually leaving after 3 ½ years without completing my degree. After striking out on my own, I was lucky enough to secure a clerk job at a trust company. My plan was to write the Great American Novel (which would take place in Canada, ironically enough), hopefully hammering out one page a day after I got home from work. When that didn’t pan out,
I began temping ― working as a word processor. A one-week assignment at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food led to further government assignments, which eventually led to a career in politics, medical politics, and finally healthcare. Moral of the story: It’s OK not to have a plan, so long as you’re flexible and can think on your feet, and don’t mind wandering through the jungle for a few years without a machete. Oh, and one more thing. You’d
be wise to take a typing course (I guess they call it “keyboarding” nowadays) at some point during high school. Turns out Grade 9 typing was the most important course I ever took.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We were running a job action for the Durham Regional Police Association up here in Canada. It was a long and bitter fight that lasted six months and cost Durham Region something on the order of 500,000 dollars in unwritten speeding and parking tickets. Instead of wearing their uniform, union members would show up for work in blue jeans and slap on a baseball cap with the numbers “10–33” written across the front ― police code for “officer needs assistance.” One Saturday night, roughly five months into our campaign, I switched on Hockey Night In Canada, hoping to watch the game and unwind a bit. During the first intermission, media personality Don Cherry came on to do his weekly Coach’s Corner segment with Ron MacLean. I wasn’t paying much attention, to be honest with you, until Ron asked Don what the deal was with the hat he’d placed on the desk in front of them. I stood up and walked toward the TV in order to
take a better look. Lo and behold, there it was … our baseball cap with the “10–33” emblazoned on the front of it. Don said something like “Those who need to know what it means already know.” And that was that. Two days later, the Police Board contacted the union to let them know they were ready to begin negotiations in earnest. Thirty days later, our job action was over and the coppers had won.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There’s nothing particularly funny about it, but I learned perhaps the most important lesson someone in our business can learn. It happened with what would have been our first client. We did roughly 10,000 dollars worth of work for this organization. Because the president and CEO had sat in the Ontario Legislature with one of my business partners, we figured we could just let things ride and bill them after we’d finished the project. Unfortunately, after about a month, they decided they didn’t need us any more (after all, we’d already successfully connected them with all of the players they needed to know) so they stiffed us. The lesson learned from all this? Simple. 1) Find the client. 2) Get paid by the client. 3) Service the client. And don’t screw up the order. From that point forward, we made it a policy to receive a retainer on the first of every month … before we did the work!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company was incorporated on October 31, 2001 ― Halloween, for those of you keeping score ― a mere six weeks following the disastrous events of September 11. Originally, we’d hoped to train people who were interested in running for public office ― hence the name PoliTrain ― while also working with CEOs, Presidents and their Board of Directors in hopes of helping them deal with crises and an ever-intrusive media. Much to our chagrin, none of the big for-profit Fortune 500 type companies were interested in learning how to defend themselves. They all figured they could just hire a lobbyist and pay them a wheelbarrow full of money to get them out of trouble. So, we started focusing on not-for-profit organizations and various associations instead. By making a conscious effort to be flexible.
PoliTrain (the “little engine that could”) has found itself front and centre over the past two decades on a number of fronts ― whether running police job actions, putting together incredibly inventive public relations campaigns, or simply lobbying the hell out of elected officials, and spinning our stories to the media. Our greatest accomplishment, though, may well have been what we did for the doctors here in Ontario. In 2001, the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris made the decision to stamp out medical fraud ― especially fraud committed by doctors, who either over-billed or billed inappropriately. I have neither the time nor space to go into much detail here (for the full story, see my book), other than to say the Ontario government eventually audited Dr. Tony Hsu to death. He committed suicide after cashing in his RRSP and paying back the 100,000 dollars the government had “extorted” from him through the Medical Review Committee. After months of hard work, we succeeded in convincing the government to place a moratorium on medical audits until after retired Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory could conduct a full inquiry into the Medical Review Committee. Working with Dr. Hsu’s widow, Irene, we eventually won the day, causing the government to cave in and drastically reform the MRC. What I’m proudest of, however, is that we did all this ― conducting a winning campaign by educating the public, elected officials, and the media, with dignity and class ― for free. In gratitude, Irene gave me a porcelain tiger, a beautiful memento that sits on the shelf, in a place of honor, just above the computer where I do most of my work.
What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?
Someone once said: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Someone else once said: “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” During the 25-plus years I’ve been engaged in these activities, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to succeed in this environment. Most important of all, you need a good strategic plan. The essence of any good strategic plan, needless to say, is that it be simple, easy to understand, and easy to explain to others. If it’s too complicated, too difficult to make sense of, or cannot be presented in a short, straightforward manner, then that plan is doomed to fail. Hence, the old axiom K.I.S.S. ― “Keep it simple, stupid” ― has to be the foundation of any plan you formulate and implement. Specifically, the plan I would recommend for a healthcare team looking to thrive would be built around the following three concepts: 1) Educate. 2) Motivate. 3) Activate. Further, your strategic plan needs to adhere to the following five golden communications rules: 1) Be message driven, not question driven. 2) Tell the story that tells the story. 3) Say what you mean and mean what you say. 4) Don’t make promises you can’t keep (i.e. it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver). 5) Tell the truth and be yourself.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
First, much like Canada, the United States doesn’t have a healthcare system. It has a sickness system. A sickness system that is funded by numerous insurance schemes ― none of which are particularly effective, nor serve the customer (that would be you and me) efficiently or effectively. Second, by allowing fast food companies and others to promote unhealthy lifestyles, we’ve created several generations of young people who, like me, have been committing suicide with food all our lives. Even so-called “healthy” alternatives, like salads that are being offered at the big chains are often just as bad as greasy hamburgers and fries. Did you know for instance, that some of these salads have as many calories as a Big Mac? Something to think about next time you’re sitting in line at your local drive-thru. Which leads me to my third point … lack of exercise. Americans (and Canadians, too!) are lazy and overweight, and get next to no exercise. The sloth may be a cute animal, but he’s no role model for the rest of us. And now, thanks to COVID-19, things are about to get much worse. Three words. Work from home. Three words that have the power to put the final nail in our collective coffins when it comes to healthcare. Take my word for it, as someone who’s worked from home for the past 19 years, your waistline is going to suffer like never before. Not to mention your mental health. Because the fact is, when you work from home, you’re not only missing out on that all-important face-to-face social interaction with your friends and colleagues, you’re also opening the door to all sorts of things. I suffer from heart and kidney problems, as anyone who has read my book will know, and have recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Working from home isn’t responsible for all my problems, but it’s definitely played a role.
You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
- Put patients first and ideology second by demanding elected officials be honest with America and tell the truth about the real cost of healthcare (or, in other words, take the politics out of it): I can’t for the life of me understand how healthcare came to be such a political hot potato over the years in both America and Canada. In my country, the best way to get a debate going on social media is to suggest that you ― like me ― are in favor of a hybrid healthcare system (one that blends private and public monies together). You will be accused of being a traitor, of being in favor of a U.S.-style two-tier healthcare system, of being a money-grubbing capitalist who puts profit over people so on and so forth. The irony, of course, as I like to point out to my fellow Canadians every chance I get, is that the best healthcare system is simply g nothing and maintaining the status quo. That’s why I find it particularly strange that the supporters of the Medicare For All Act are so gung-ho on copying Canada’s failed healthcare system. It makes no sense. What I can tell you, however, is that if we don’t make it a priority to take the politics out of healthcare ― and do it soon ― we’ll still be having these unhelpful debates 50 to 100 years from now.
- Identify and deal with the real problem instead of being content to focus on solving the political problem by throwing money at it and engaging in photo ops and partisan attacks on those who disagree with you: Let’s face it, in the 21 st Century our leaders ― especially our political leaders ―are incapable of identifying and dealing with real problems. Whether the blame lies with our representatives because they’re so lacking in the necessary gravitas, vision, or perception, or with the media who seem to like to reduce everything ― especially complex issues ― to its lowest common denominator, or our education system which, as far as I can see, checked out a long time ago when it comes to giving future generations a good, solid grounding for taking on the world and making decisions that will affect both the present and the future … I just don’t know. To quote that great American philosopher, Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.” And man, have we been stupid! Let me give you an example. In my home province of Ontario, we have a situation we refer to as “hallway healthcare.” When people who should either be in long- term care homes or have access to some form of home care are brought to the Emergency Department and end up lingering for days, and even weeks, on a gurney in the hallway because there are not enough beds available elsewhere in the hospital, that’s hallway healthcare. Elected officials, trying to avert a public relations crisis, naturally throw money at the problem, instructing hospitals to hire more nurses so they can get these “bed blockers” out of the hallways and into a ward with beds. That’s solving the political problem, not the real problem … which I suspect you’ve already figured out is a lack of long-term care homes or home care.
- Stop focusing solely on illness and figure out ways to keep Americans fit and healthy instead: As I acknowledge in my book, I’m probably the last person you should be taking nutritional and exercise advice from. After all, I’m the guy who gave up alcohol 20 years ago after it was discovered I had a fatty liver. Although I was by no means a heavy driver, I figured I’d rather quit the booze than give up Coke, chocolate, and cheese. Like most of us ― Americans and Canadians ― I’ve spent years “eating myself into a coma” and then dieting myself to death. I’m 6’2” and should weigh somewhere between 180 and 200 lbs. One time, I managed to lose 40 lbs in a month while on a “cleansing” diet, going from 210 to 170 lbs. I then yo-yoed back up to 230 lbs, then 240, finally coming to rest at a pathetic and most unhealthy 250 lbs. Fortunately, I have good genes. My father suffered two heart attacks, apparently, without even knowing it. He simply got out of bed and drove to work where he spent the next eight hours climbing telephone poles. My grandfather on my mother’s side suffered the first of three strokes (the last of which would finally kill him) while he was a mile and half from his house, trapping animals on the banks of the Beaver River just outside of Cannington, Ontario. Even though one side of his body was paralyzed, he managed to crawl home, pulling himself along the railroad tracks with his good arm and leg. Clearly, both my dad and my grandpa were fit for life. Me, I’m afraid I’m fat for life ― like most every American or Canadian I encounter.
- Invest heavily in long-term care (or be prepared to face the consequences): Just before my father died, I promised him I’d move to the small town they had retired to so I could look after mom. It would never have occurred to me to place my mother in a long-term care home, even though we explored some options together just in case (an exercise that left her in tears, not surprisingly). Fortunately, as someone who runs his own business and works from home, I was able to look after my mom and manage her many doctor appointments until she took ill and died a few years later after coming down with pneumonia and sepsis. While I realize most of you don’t work from home or own your own business, I’m somewhat dismayed by the philosophy that seems to have developed over the past number of years ― the one that says it’s perfectly fine to “warehouse” our loved ones. Unfortunately, as COVID-19 has made all too clear, our system of long-term care for the elderly is woefully inadequate and in many ways is little more than a death sentence for those we claim to care about. Our elected officials are also guilty of adopting an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. But unless we soon wake up and invest heavily in long-term care, we’re going to face a catastrophe of the highest order ― with or without another pandemic.
- Don’t attempt to copy Canada’s broken and unsustainable healthcare system by implementing the Medicare For All Act: If I had one wish for America, it would be that every elected official, every political advisor, every healthcare administrator, every patient and caregiver ― what the hell, let’s just say everyone ― would read my book. I like to tell people I spent 25 years writing it in my head before I finally committed it to paper in 2018. It was while riding in the back of an ambulance, after having dropped dead, that I promised myself I’d finally write the damn thing if I made it to the hospital in time and survived my own healthcare crisis. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I’m not a policy wonk or a professor or a healthcare professional. I like to think of myself as a canary in the coal mine, or perhaps a war correspondent, returning from the jungles after all these years to report on what I witnessed while there. What I can tell you is that I’ve seen just about everything when it comes to healthcare ― (forgive me Clint Eastwood) the good, the bad, and the ugly. While there’s a lot to admire about Canada’s healthcare system ― just as there are things to admire about America’s system ― the fact remains that, despite what Senator Sanders and others say, you don’t want to copy Canada’s broken and unsustainable healthcare system by implementing the Medicare For All Act. You can trust me on this. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
Ok, its very nice to suggest changes, but what concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?
We, the people, need to stand up for ourselves and take back our healthcare system. It’s our system ― it belongs to us ― or, at least that’s how it should be. But if we’re not willing to speak up and speak out and fight for what’s rightfully ours, then we’ve no one to blame but ourselves. In response to your question, What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities, and d) leaders do to help, my response would simply be “Sh*t or get off the pot.” For instance, you could try working together. Or try admitting there’s a serious problem. Stop lying to us and accept what most of us have known for a long time. Healthcare is not free. It’s not a human right any more than education is. Truth is, whether we’re talking America’s or Canada’s system of delivering healthcare to its citizens, both systems are broken, unsustainable, and seriously flawed. Having walked on the face of this planet for some 60-plus years, I’m astonished at how mediocrity has become the norm. Whether we’re talking education, healthcare, or political leadership … many of my fellow citizens either don’t notice or don’t care just how sad and pathetic the world has become. People frequently accuse me of being a Pollyanna ― in no small part because I refuse to accept the status quo and try with all my heart to leave the world a better place than I found it. For those of you old enough to remember John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, I guess I would say I’m an “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” kind of guy Bottom line: Change ― positive, lasting, and game-changing change ― is possible … but only if we lay down our ideologies and work together. Or to borrow a phrase from the folks at Nike: JUST DO IT!
I’m interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now, we have two parallel tracks, mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?
This is something I’ve noticed too and it worries me a great deal. To make matters worse, I believe that the fallout from COVID-19 may well lead to yet another pandemic ― a mental health one ― especially among young people. My step-son is 38 years younger than me. Listening to him interact with his friends ― whether at work or through the various social media and gaming platforms he participates in ― I can hear the anxiety lying just beneath the surface. While they try to laugh it off, or deal with the issues they’re facing by relying on sarcasm or flippant responses, I can tell that just beneath the surface real fear is lurking. And we’re nowhere near ready to deal with it. This is hardly surprising, as historically someone dealing with mental health issues has been seen as a weak person. Even worse, the person suffering from what truly is a disease, and hence should be treated as such, is often blamed for not being able to “keep a stiff upper lip” or “pull up their socks.” Fortunately, thanks to initiatives like Bell’s Let’s
Talk social media campaign here in Canada, we’re becoming more and more comfortable with talking about mental health. However, we still have a long way to go when it comes to building a functional, modern, and sustainable healthcare system that acknowledges conditions like schizophrenia, anxiety, and bi-polar are every bit as worthy of society’s attention as cancer and diabetes.
How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?
Short and sweet … an excellent healthcare provider should: One, treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Nobody likes to be taken for granted ― or worse, taken advantage of. Two, be a good listener. We were given two ears and one mouth for a very good reason. And three, find the perfect balance between being human and being God. Your patients look to you for advice, reassurance, and a solution to their problems. In order to be an excellent healthcare provider, you must never forget that you have more in common with those you treat than those who, like you, wear white coats and have a stethoscope draped around their necks.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are three, actually ― all from the world of professional football, interestingly enough. “Do your job” (a phrase made famous by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the Super Bowl a few years ago); “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” (generally attributed to Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi in the 1960s, although there is some evidence that St. Vincent may not have been the first to use that line); and “The future is now” (first uttered by Washington Redskins head coach George Allen when asked by a reporter if he wasn’t concerned about the future after trading most of Washington’s draft picks for seasoned ― some would say “over
the hill” ― veteran players). So, just how have each of these “Life Lesson Quotes” affected my life? Let’s start with the first one: “Do your job.” As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m “old school.” I like to tell it like it is ― no matter the consequences. Most important of all, I don’t make promises, I make commitments. Unfortunately, we live in an age ― thanks mainly to social media ― where people feel they have the right to be judge, jury, and executioner. The reason this is now the norm, I suspect, is because it’s so much easier to comment on the job someone else is doing instead of doing your job. Which I think is the point Coach Belichick was trying to get across. Don’t worry about the other guy. Just concentrate on what you’re supposed to be doing. The other thing this quote implies (without actually saying it) is that you should do your job well. As I’m fond of saying, it takes a lot less time to do a job right the first time instead of having to do it a second time because you didn’t give it your all right from the start. The second one: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” As someone who grew up loving sports, playing sports, and watching sports, it’ll come as no surprise that I’ve spent my life playing to win ― just like Coach Lombardi. No participation ribbons or good sportsmanship badges for me. I approach every game, every campaign, with a “take no prisoners” attitude. Unfortunately, due to our dysfunctional education system and hard-to-fathom nuttiness of today’s “helicopter parents,” I’m afraid we’ve produced an entire generation of “snowflakes.” Children and young adults need to know there’s no shame in striving to be the best. Being brave, courageous, and unstoppable is a good thing. Remember, winners win and losers lose. I know which side I’d want to be on. Finally, the George Allen quote: “The future is now.” Coach Allen made his famous pronouncement almost 50 years ago. The future was then every bit as much as the future is now. When I hear people talk about the environment and how the world is going to end next week if we don’t all dramatically change our lives and go green, I can’t help but laugh at the naïveté of the Greta Thunbergs of the world. Despite what the well-funded public relations campaign behind Little Greta Pigtails would have us believe, this old planet is not about to stop spinning any time soon. Healthcare, however … now that’s another matter altogether. When I wrote my book in 2018, I figured we had a dozen years or so before Canada’s healthcare system went up in flames. Take my home province, for instance. In Ontario, a whopping 47% of the government’s budget goes toward the funding of healthcare. Forty-seven percent! By 2030, it’s estimated that number will balloon to 80%. Needless to say, that’s unsustainable. To mention nothing of the three healthcare tsunamis ― obesity, diabetes, and dementia ― waiting just offshore, soon to overwhelm us and swamp the treasury. The healthcare doomsday clock is ticking. Clearly, there won’t be any kind of future if we don’t do something about it now!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re just putting the finishing touches on a children’s book, believe it or not, I’ve written about how my three dogs ― Jack, Cooper, and Maxwell ― came to meet. Illustrated by Christine Lowe, it’s called The Three Friends, and should be out sometime in 2021 if we can find a publisher. In the meantime, I’m just getting ready to begin work on a sequel to my first book. The new one is tentatively titled If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It: Myths, Barriers, and Breakthroughs in 21 st Century Healthcare. Unlike my first effort, which focused mainly on Canada and the United States, I plan on examining in some detail the healthcare challenges other countries have faced and the unique measures they’ve taken to overcome them. Again, all this depends on whether or not I can find a publisher who’s interested in my work, as well as a new literary agent. Arnold Gosewich, who was kind enough to walk a neophyte like me through the process by agreeing to be my agent, including negotiating a contract for my first book, unfortunately passed away somewhat unexpectedly last year. Lastly, the project I’m perhaps most excited about is something I’m calling The Institute for Healthcare Reform and Innovation. Should I be fortunate enough to secure the necessary financial backing, I hope to turn The Institute into the world’s number one think tank when it comes to healthcare. As COVID-19 has shown us, when it arrived with a shocking thud on our doorsteps six or seven months ago, the future really is now.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
For me, Professor Jordan B. Peterson is the most important thinker since another Canadian, Marshall McLuhan, took the world by storm back in the 1960s. Peterson’s 2018 book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is the best road map I’ve seen yet for young people looking to navigate the general craziness of both our inner and outer worlds. While I understand some of his ideas might be controversial and even offensive to some, the fact is Professor Peterson is that rare animal who has the courage to speak the honest-to-God truth ― which is even more impressive considering the fact we live in an age of The Big Lie. Whether toppling statues, spray painting buildings, rioting and looting in the name of social justice, the current “Cancel Culture” idiocy that’s sweeping much of the world only proves how badly our next generations need to stop and listen ― really listen ― to what Professor Peterson is saying. If we’re talking healthcare books, then I’d have to recommend Dr. Danielle Martin’s Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Healthcare for All Canadians … but not for the reasons you might think. I urge all of you to read this book before you read my book. Dr. Martin, who became something of a minor celebrity in America after appearing with Sen. Bernie Sanders in public during the great Medicare For All debate ― dare I go as far as to suggest Danielle is Uncle Bernie’s healthcare whisperer? ―has written perhaps the most naïve book on this most important topic ever. Again, I urge you to read Better Now. Then read my book. The difference between our two visions is like night and day. Lastly, I would like to bring your attention to yet another Canadian thinker, Dr. Min Basadur. Visit his life-changing website (www.basadur.com) and learn all about the wonders of Min’s Simplexity system. You’ll never approach a problem the same way ever again.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Two things. First, I’d like to pass a law making it mandatory for educators at all levels to teach our children how to think instead of what to think. I read somewhere that left-leaning professors outweigh right-leaning professors by 19 to 1 in our colleges and universities. The problem with this is that our kids, when they finally get out into the real world, think everyone thinks like they do and are shocked to discover that half the world comes at life from the right (conservative) side while the other half sees things from the left (liberal) side. By indoctrinating our children during the first 20 to 30 years of their lives, convincing them that only those on the left have the right answers, and that those on the right should be shunned and shown the door, we’re setting them up for a life of misery and disappointment. Remember, despite what many would have us believe, the world is not black and white. There are many shades of gray. By turning the political debate into a vicious, hateful cartoon, we’re making it impossible to build a consensus ― something every nation needs in order to move forward, no matter the issue. The second thing I’d like to do (again, likely through legislation) is to make it an offense for any elected official to knowingly lie. I’ll be turning 62 years of age on New Year’s Eve. I’m thoroughly convinced that more than half the things coming out of politicians’ mouths ― the things we’ve grown up believing, for God’s sake ― have been blatant lies. We were lied to about Pearl Harbor and Vietnam. We were lied to about the assassination of JFK. We were lied to about 9/11. And it’s entirely possible we’re being lied to right now about how and where COVID-19 originated. Now, I don’t know if the political life attracts the kind of people who have no conscience or suffer any pangs of guilt when they engage in such subterfuge, or whether people who enter politics simply find themselves being co-opted by others who have perfected the art of lying. All I know is that playing fast and loose with the truth like this is not good for any of us.
How can our readers follow you online?
A number of ways. On Twitter (www.twitter.com/SSkyvington), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SSkyvington), or on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-skyvington-abb8a913). For those interested in learning more about me and how healthcare works (or, more often than not, doesn’t work) here in Canada, you could do a lot worse than starting with my book, This May Hurt A Bit: Reinventing Canada’s Healthcare System (Dundurn Press, Toronto, Canada, 2019).
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!