Lame Duck Leadership

“The term lame duck generally refers to one who holds power when that power is certain to end in the near future.” (Legal Dictionary)

Lame duck leaders do not face the consequences of their actions; they will soon be gone.

Other politicians do not worry about what a lame duck does or says, as long as the lame duck leaves them alone.

Lame ducks can do great harm, but for the most part, everyone sits back and waits for new management.

Vote of Non-Confidence

On Sunday, the OMA Council, Ontario Doctors’ governing body, debated the following motion:

“That OMA council express to the OMA Executive Committee that Council has lost confidence in the leadership provided by the Executive”

Council voted 55% in favour.

Usually, 25 Board members and 7 student representatives vote, en bloc, in support of whatever the Board advises [Correction: Past Presidents don’t vote]. Considering that, the non-confidence motion had the support of an overwhelming majority of working doctors.

For the first time ever, Council said that it did not trust the current Executive to lead doctors in Ontario.

Nothing Personal

In a twist so strange that it has to be true, each Executive member kept her/his seat. No one resigned. No one even offered to resign.

Six motions followed the non-confidence motion, one for each member of the Exec.

One by one, each member of the Executive rose and spoke against the motion that called for her/his resignation. And one after the next, each motion failed by a bit more than the one before.

Council made an historic and uncharacteristic decision to support a vote of non-confidence. But it could not agree to fire a colleague. Council could not stomach something so personal.

Lame Duck Leadership

Now the OMA worries about what to do next. The Board sent emails about unity and action.

Last week, many people suspected the OMA was incompetent and irrelevant. This week everyone knows that the OMA lost a non-confidence vote.

For all practical decisions – for example, contracts and negotiations – the OMA has lame duck leadership, in the strict definition of lame duck.

Elections over the next few months will oust half of the Board. The President leaves office in May. In the meantime, the Board faces an almost impossible task.

Despair vs. Hope

Margaret Thatcher said that socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money. The Wynne government has run out of money and cut almost $2 billion from healthcare.

Many doctors predicted this would happen. They all thought that patients would suffer and then the end would come. No one predicted that doctors would suffer like this, first.

No other country copies Canadian Medicare.  And no one makes it illegal for doctors to provide medically necessary care outside of the state insurance system. All of the most socialist countries have blended systems. Even Communist countries look beyond the state for help with medical care.

Hope will come when the OMA starts to advocate publicly. It should write about young people dying on wait lists; old people waiting for days on rubber mattresses, in noisy emergency departments.

The OMA should criticize mismanagement and cuts. It should campaign for substantive change.

The OMA must stop lusting for friendship with the Liberal government, or any other party that ruins care with impunity.

The OMA Board should take the advice of the governance expert who reviewed the Board last summer: Ask 3 members of the Exec to resign.

The Board knows what needs to be done but refuses to do it quickly.

The Board needs to make real decisions and take meaningful, public action. The OMA must shed its lame duck status before anyone will waste time engaging with it. When will the OMA realize that it’s in a fight for its existence?


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16 Replies to “Lame Duck Leadership”

  1. Great post Shawn. I liked the reality of: “Usually, 25 Board members, 7 student representatives and an unknown number of Past Presidents vote, en bloc, in support of whatever the Board advises. Considering that, the non-confidence motion had the support of an overwhelming majority of working doctors.”

    That is huge! Point of the vote was to send a message though.

    1. Thanks Rohit!

      No wonder it’s so hard to change things, eh? The Board guides and preps Council in the same way that the Exec guides and preps the Board towards the right decision.

      Thanks for taking time to post a comment!

      PS: I made a mistake. Past Presidents do NOT vote at the OMA. See Scott Wooder’s comment. I corrected the post and adjusted your comment (strike through). Sorry!



  2. Hi Shawn

    A quick fact check. I’m not being critical but I know you will want to correct something you said.

    Past Presidents do not get a vote at Council. I believe that they do vote at the CMA but not at the OMA.


    1. I really appreciate to correcting me on this, Scott!

      I deleted that part and added a note to clarify my mistake.

      Thanks so much!


  3. Query why some specialists, most recently paediatric neurosurgeons, continue to assist OHIP in disputes with families and their children. I thought that physicians were in a dispute with OHIP and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. It would appear that not all physicians have a dispute with OHIP and the Ministry.

  4. I would like to point out and applaud Scott for being the only one who did the right and honorable thing and resign when the tPSA was defeated. I am one of what one wag calls the “league of 25” which makes me feel like I’m supposed to have a bulletproof lyrca outfit with gaudy colours. What we are is ordinary doctors who see the status quo as no longer helpful and very unlikely to give us a different outcome. I too voted for the exec censure but demurred when it came to a personalized attack. I think I am like most colleagues who are softies at heart. I personally spoke to each of the exec I could approach and told them it was not personal – and I meant it. The problem is what they are doing and not who they are. People have differing views and these people have be indoctrinated into OMA group think, they can see no other alternatives. Thats why they have to go. Not because they are bad people, they are just the wrong people for this time. Unfortunately they seem to have no memory of the resolutions of the General Meeting of the Membership and the binding resolution by 94% margin not to engage in negotiations without Binding Arbitration. They suppressed the data from NPR about approval ratings and the thought survey results which asked very direct questions. I am disappointed by this. I asked the chair at the outset of the day on a point of order to present these results as they were directly relevant to the confidence and leadership review of the morning. He sail “I don’t see it that way”. Really?

    1. Great comments, as always, Ernest.

      The general distaste for any discomfort or irregularity makes people more inclined to believe comfortable fiction than harsh reality. You keep asking for truth. People are relieved when whoever’s in charge protects them from it.

      I am starting to think that all the issues and grievances we have with the OMA stem from the concentration of power. Now that we have 43,000 dues paying members, doctors need some kind of choice about where they direct their dues. I suspect that we’d be better off having more than one leviathan association that waddles but pleases no one.

      The Board has one last chance. Too many doctors have become mobilized. There are too many flanks to cover. The OMA must act, soon.

      Thanks for reading and sharing a comment!

      Talk soon,


  5. We suspected that it was incompetent, but I don’t believe it to be irrelevant.

    Lame ducks, wounded ducks, can be dangerous…they can still sign documents /agreements with the government that are binding on the profession where the government is concerned.

    They would likely make certain that they themselves and their ilk obtain sinecures in the health care structure to come.

    1. Fair point, Andris. You are right, the OMA could sell us all out, again, with a terrible contract. Then they could blame a bad marketing approach for a failed ratification.

      We’d best keep a close eye on things…

  6. Shawn can you please clarify where the governance recommendation for 3 Exec to resign comes from? Were members at large aware of that recommendation?

    1. This came from a governance review of the Board done over the summer. The results were presented to the Board in the October Board meeting. The results were prepared by the Board and reported to the Board to help it see how it might improve.

      Given the dysfunction over the last 12 months, it might be politic of the Board to release that report, even though it was not prepared for the general membership.

      1. I am blown away. They had an independent advisor recommend resignations months ago and they’re *still* clinging to power? After this weekend? I honestly don’t have words…

  7. So I see the OMA is advertising for doctors to apply to be on the next negotiating committee. Does this mean the OMA has started to negotiate again with the MOH? Are they trying to really do damage by getting a deal done with the government before the next OMA elections in May? Really smacks of that dangerous lame/wounded duck scenario you talk about.

    1. That would be terrible/insane/no-good/intolerable.

      The last team was thrown together in response to government signalling the desire to make a deal before summer ended. I sure hope that isn’t why they Board is striking a new committee. Let’s hope it’s just standard process and forward thinking on the part of the Board…

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