The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

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Altered States – No Better Example

Posted on July 29, 2009

“The future of democracy lies with what we might call strong democracy – with a revitalization of citizenship that is not collectivistic, a form of public reasoning that is not merely conformist, and a set of civic institutions that permits vital citizen input.” So said George Bernard Shaw. Even in his day there were concerns that proper citizen skills weren’t being developed or welcomed by a political order that preferred to keep matters to itself. In fretting that democracy would inevitably be weakened by an isolated citizenry, he believed citizens should themselves come together, learn the working and policies of government, and force the system to sit up and take notice – not negatively but proactively. We have been fortunate enough in Canada to…

Altered States – The New “Commons”

Posted on July 26, 2009

We considered previously Paul Martin Sr.’s view of a strong citizenship deserving of enlightened leadership. Prior to World War Two, citizens lived their lives out through institutions – God, King and Country – but as prosperity filled the country in the years following, Canadians made their own private pursuits their chief occupation. Somewhere along the line the belief became prevalent that government exists to assist citizens in their private pursuits. This reasoning is part of what has led us into our permanent malaise regarding politics. Democracy without participation breeds a sort of uninformed consensus and slowly places more distance between those in charge and those whose interests they are supposed to be reflecting.  We need a new form of strong democracy so that we…

Altered States – Mutual Contempt

Posted on July 22, 2009

In his memoirs A Very Public Life: Far From Home, Paul Martin Sr. tells of an emotionally stirring visit to Dieppe following the end of World War Two. Almost 1,000 Canadian lives had been lost in bloody battle. Something changed in Martin that day that mirrored how the country itself has transformed. These were mostly young men who gave their last breath in duty. On that day were born the seeds of the Canadian Citizenship Act which Martin himself ushered through Parliament. In his mind, Canada had matured into an independent nation, proven by its sacrifice, and deserving of a citizenship that matched its performance. He had great hopes that the Act itself would prompt Canadians to stand up and take control of their…

Adopting A New Attitude

Posted on July 19, 2009

When Parliament first began to function following Confederation, local MPs traveled sometimes for months or weeks to attend political sessions in Ottawa. They came as the extended voices of their ridings and they acted as though the House of Commons was there to look after the interests of their respective constituents. They knew there was more to it than that, naturally, and that the country of Canada couldn’t survive without all regions cooperating in the national interest. But they were there for their communities primarily. I just came from a meeting with numerous families who have been in the process of adopting overseas children through the Imagine agency that recently filed for bankruptcy. They gathered in reflection and pain and confusion as to what…

Altered States – The Role of “Dummy”

Posted on July 18, 2009

Time to talk about what we’re not supposed to talk about.  In May, I walked through the restaurant at the Marriott Hotel and was summoned to a table of Conservatives who were celebrated the anniversary of their election.  “Come on, have a drink with us,” they entreated.  I was glad to do it and they were great to be with. At one point in the evening, one of them expressed frustration at how difficult it was for the average MP to speak their mind in the House. One of the women present lamented that the same had to be said about parliamentary committees. All chipped in with the understanding that we couldn’t mention of this to the media lest they take it out of…