This week I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with a class of political science majors at UPEI. The discussion centered around democratic reform, but it also branched off in many interesting and provocative directions. Following an answer I gave on how different voting systems affect the behaviour of elected representatives – with some tending to promote antagonism and hostility, while others tend to collaboration and compromise – I was asked what the purpose of the opposition is in a parliament. Surely, the individual insisted, the opposition is there to oppose government and hold them to account?Read more
Valentine’s Day has got me in a soppy, romantic mood, and it is in this spirit that I offer these thoughts.
I got married almost 30 years ago. I’m a lucky man: I chose the kindest person I’ve ever met to be my wife, and though none of us can predict the future, it looks like we’ll be good for at least a few more years. If Ann were writing this blog, I hope she would say something similar. The years of courtship were special, and the energy and naivety of youth propelled us towards a memorable wedding in St. John’s where the Scottish and Newfoundland families met (and sang, danced, ate and drank together) for the first time. The whole episode from our first encounter (in a dental chair – hold the romance – “do you floss?”…. “I do”) to the wedding (in a spectacular Newfoundland church – bring on the romance - “do you take this woman”……”I do”) was a rollicking delight.Read more
With the second round of democratic renewal public consultations about to get under way, I thought it might be a good time to talk about the unique opportunity that PEI has to shape national affairs.
Since its birth, Canada has used the “First-Past-The-Post” system to elect governments at the federal and provincial levels. Prime Minister Trudeau has stated that from now on that won’t be the case federally. The next federal election will use something different to elect our House of Commons.Read more
Only Premier MacLauchlan knows what motivated his somewhat unexpected cabinet shuffle yesterday. Was it to initiate the much-talked-about rejuvenation of his government? Was it done out of necessity to shore up a floundering ministry and minister? Was it to appease a disgruntled and fractious backbencher? Whatever it was, I think on balance the new cabinet is better, more diverse and more suited to our needs.Read more
Each New Year creates a clear boundary in time. It causes us to pause and look both backwards and forwards; to the year that was, and to the possibilities that lie ahead. Although January 1st is an entirely random point in time to designate as the beginning of the year, the ceaseless flow of the seasons is a natural rhythm that truly distinguishes one annual cycle from another. But today the ancient, slow pulse of those seasons is not as reassuringly predictable as it once was. This week it was warmer at the North Pole than it was in Chicago, Vienna and Istanbul, and weather patterns everywhere are becoming increasingly erratic.Read more
About 20 years ago, before my family moved to PEI, I remember meeting a man at a strawberry social, and we got talking about politics. He was the first person to tell me that there wasn’t much difference between the Liberals and Conservatives on the Island, and that all governments on PEI tended to be more left-leaning than in other jurisdictions because we care about the well-being of our neighbour, and we like to take care of each other. I found out many years later, that this gentleman was Wes MacAleer, though I had no idea who he was the first time we met.Read more
Like most Islanders, we lost power for an extended time following the storm last week. And like most Islanders we were caught by surprise and were unprepared for just how damaging the seemingly mild storm was. Could we have been better prepared? And can we expect more of this during the next few months? Speaking personally, I wish I’d filled up the bath tub with water, and as always I lament the fact that we don’t have a generator …. but never quite enough to go out and invest in one. Collectively, we could invest in a similar sort of insurance against the next devastating storm which will inevitably come, if not this winter, then some winter in the near future.Read more
I am unaware of the origins of the phrase “going through the motions”, but I’m sure Islanders understand its meaning: to do things insincerely or in a cursory manner.
After a couple of sessions in the House, where we literally and metaphorically “go through the motions”, I am increasingly convinced that the origins of the term are political.Read more
I’m beginning to realize that in politics – as in life – you almost never get everything you want. This week was a good illustration of that truth.
On Tuesday I brought forward my first bill for second reading, the first chance for the House to debate it. The Well-being Measurement Act was generally well received, with nobody in the House having any particular issue with the essence of the legislation, more so with the procedure of the bill.Read more
For over 30 years I went to work as a dentist, and knew with a pretty high degree of certainty what my day would look and feel like. I felt ready and capable to meet pretty well any challenge that I might face. A few months ago I started a new job, and those feelings of security, predictability and comfort flew right out of the window. Every day in my new job as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island is an adventure; and I say that with equal measures of affection and terror. For the first few weeks in my new position, I had no idea what I was doing: I’m still not sure most of the time. If I were flying, the seat of my pants would have worn out long ago. The job description – if there is one (I haven’t found it yet) – would make interesting reading. I have always been a big fan of avoiding stagnation, and of introducing new challenges to one’s life, but I always imagined doing it in a gentle, incremental way. Going suddenly from decay to debate; from replacing fillings to resisting filibusters; from poking around premolars to promoting plebiscites is a larger leap than I had in mind.Read more