The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

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Even the Queen Gets It

Posted on November 30, 2012

As she looked out over the lands from her Sandringham estate, Queen Elizabeth II came to a conclusion. It was 1995 and she had witnessed enough changes over the past decade to convince her that something was altering the environment, likely climate change. Spring was arriving three weeks earlier than it did when she was first crowned a half-century earlier. No one ever doubted her commitment to the Dominion, especially during times of war and tension, but this represented an entirely new challenge and she felt the responsibility to do something about it. In her weekly meeting with Tony Blair at the time (2004), the monarch raised the issue of global warming and her concern that the American position of George W. Bush at…

Citizenship As A Contact Sport

Posted on November 28, 2012

Joseph Priestley, a keen observer of the modern condition, noted recently that, “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” When Romeo Dallaire declared in London last week that whoever dominates technology shapes the future, he was speaking directly to the younger generation and their potential. There’s just one problem: modern communication methods are proving remarkably resistant to persuasion. Carleton University professor Ellen Saunders speaks of standing in front of a class of keen young minds, asking, “Where do you feel most comfortable in terms of engaging with peers?” Almost universally they said they would rather use text, but if in a pinch would resort to using the phone. Only if everything else failed would they agree to meet face-to-face. Saunders…

Dignitas, Gravitas, Veritas

Posted on November 26, 2012

General Romeo Dallaire was in town last week to deliver the Claude and Elaine Pensa Lecture on Human Rights at Western University’s Faculty of Law – an annual event. We hadn’t seen one another for 18 months and we both missed the days of working together on international issues in both the House of Commons and the Senate. He spoke to a packed lecture room filled with students, faculty, lawyers and just interested citizens.  Looking around the venue, I spotted Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, and one former Green Party candidate – an eclectic mix. It was all sponsored by Harrison Pensa – a well-known legal firm that crosses the political spectrum in practical ways that cooperate in order to better the local community – kind…

A Time For “Honest Abes”

Posted on November 22, 2012

Jane and I came out of the movie “Lincoln” deeply moved. I had written a book on perhaps America’s favourite president 15 years ago, with research that took me to Kentucky, Springfield, Illinois, and of course Washington D.C. That preliminary work and our struggle against slavery in Sudan prepared us well for the movie and we weren’t disappointed. But in leaving, we encountered someone in their thirties, I think, who felt let down by what he had witnessed on the screen. “It was all this boring legislative stuff. With Stephen Spielberg I expected a lot more special effects,” he offered as we exited. If only he knew, I thought to myself. My experience in Ottawa had taught me that political life is largely made…

Call of Duty

Posted on November 20, 2012

It had been a good session – lots of talk and ideas about the need for a renewed sense of democratic possibility. The group I was speaking to last week responded warmly. Then the group’s leader stood up to thank me for the speech. What he said wasn’t what I expected. “Glen, given your passion and dedication towards citizenship, it is inevitable that you will have to run again for politics, at whatever level. In fact, I think all of us feel it’s your duty. We’re all frustrated with what’s going on.” He said many other nice things, but already my mind was wrestling. What do we say to this concept of a person fulfilling a duty by running for office? Is it legitimate,…

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