Three days in Vancouver. Three days to sprint from meeting to meeting, with such an array of people. Mayors, city administrators, port authorities, immigrant settlement organizations. We visited the Insite supervised injection site in the Downtown East side. It affected me on so many levels, I am still trying to make sense of it.
What struck me most about this visit? First, the language of green is everywhere. It was a key element of almost every organization we encountered. Vancouver has a goal to be the greenest city on earth by 2020. When even the Port Authority has it as a major element of their strategic plan, you know that something is happening.
Second, there really does seem to be an emerging consensus that the most effective way to deal with homelessness is to provide housing. Sounds obvious, yet when I think back to our visit in January to Calgary, there was quite a debate going on. Do we increase funding and support to shelters, or do we invest in supportive housing? Certainly, in BC the view appears to be that housing is the way to go. Virtually everyone we met with spoke with passion and conviction about this, and there are ambitious plans in place to provide the housing needed. Surrey has already gone quite far in this area, and Victoria is moving quickly. And there is a very ambitious plan to provide many more units in the downtown east side of Vancouver.
This leg of our journey truly highlighted for me the richness and diversity of leadership types. From directive, take-charge types, to others who were typical of the “leading from behind” school, to others who favoured a collaborative, team-based approach. Different styles for different circumstances. There was a constant, though. They were completely present. They were passionate and determined. They were committed. So, dare I say it? I wonder whether we grow those kinds of leaders in the public service. We are pretty risk-averse, and we do not reward people who deviate too far from our public service norm. I know that we have lots of talented people, but are we as great as we could be? When we hire someone, do we ask ourselves, “is this someone who wants to make Canada better?” What would happen if everyone did that?
It makes me wonder what kind of leader I am, and what do I need to do to be a better one?