From Cannon to Styro Rail: the trouble with groupthink in Wakefield, Quebec


by admin on April 13, 2011

The Editor,


Want to know what connects Lawrence Cannon with the debacle that is the “light” industrial park in Wakefield, Quebec? It’s this: bad decision-making encouraged by autocratic political leaders.

“Groupthink” is a well-recognized problem besetting any group decision-making such as that found in municipal councils, federal cabinets, or corporate boards. Individual members supposed to bring alternative views, expertise or agendas quietly shelve their inner doubts to maintain group cohesion, hence “groupthink.”

A good leader will counteract groupthink by encouraging questioning and dissent to ensure well thought-through policy and spending decisions. Where these critical voices are absent: bad decisions are made (think Enron).

Asked to list two leaders in my geographic orbit who are known for discouraging dissent, withholding information, insisting on secrecy, and Stephen Harper and Robert Bussiere leap to mind.

What evidence is there of groupthink in La Peche council? After a meeting April 9 at the Black Sheep with two well-meaning representatives of Styro Rail, we learned the “light” industrial park will generate very few, if any, local jobs – possibly thirteen, likely as drivers – and these jobs won’t materialize until 2013 at the earliest. The other 37 better-paid, more-skilled jobs are already taken – by folks living in Gatineau. And there is no guarantee that if 13 driver jobs are created in the future, they will go to local residents.

Remember the mayor’s promise of environmental savings secured by all those “hundreds” of workers no longer driving into Ottawa? Here’s the rub: Styro Rail’s work force will be driving to Wakefield instead, and don’t get me started on the fleet of delivery trucks that will begin loading each morning at 5 a.m.

La Peche council pursued the expropriation of acres of prime land for what? No guarantee of jobs, an increase in traffic and pollution, and a negligible effect on the tax base – oh, and an environmental hazard on our doorstep. This is a bad decision, and our councilors and mayor have failed us.

The connection to Lawrence Cannon?  As a citizenry, our options in the face of poor local decision-making are painfully limited. But we can learn from this debacle that leaders who engage in autocratic, control-freakery, discouraging creative and independent thinking, are bad leaders who will generate bad decisions.

As a voting public, we can say to Lawrence Cannon: no matter how competent you are as an individual, you are complacent in the face of Harper’s autocratic leadership. In participating in this style of top-down decision-making, you, too, have failed us.


Doris Buss

Wakefield, Quebec