Skip to main content
LATEST INFORMATION ABOUT COVID-19

READ MORE

Canada’s key political voices come to Concordia

John Gomery, Stéphane Dion and Kevin Page are among the 37 speakers presenting at this year’s WSSR lecture series
May 13, 2015
|
By J. Latimer

WSSR-Q&As-620

Get the inside scoop on our national environmental policy. Hear from the country’s first parliamentary budget officer and other insiders who’ve spent time on The Hill.

Thirty-seven prominent political voices are coming to Concordia for the 2015 edition of the Workshops on Social Science Research (WSSR), which runs until June 29. The speakers include accomplished figures from political, judicial, academic and social science backgrounds, who are visiting Concordia to deliver one-, two- and three-day workshops on matters of governance and public policy. Consult the full schedule here.

John H. Gomery, former Superior Court judge and public inquiry commissioner: “Public inquiries act as a powerful deterrent because of the embarrassment factor.”	John H. Gomery, former Superior Court judge and public inquiry commissioner: “Public inquiries act as a powerful deterrent because of the embarrassment factor.”

John Gomery: How do we make our politicians more responsible?

On Monday, John H. Gomery, a former judge in the Superior Court of Quebec and public inquiry commissioner, spoke about improving accountability in Canadian politics. "Commissions of Inquiry may cost taxpayers millions of dollars, but that’s the price of having responsible government,” he says. “Plus, they make everyone more accountable."

“Public inquiries act as a powerful deterrent because of the embarrassment factor,” notes Gomery, adding that shaming someone on Parliament Hill may be as powerful a disincentive as criminal prosecution.

Gomery’s workshop also addressed his concern that too much power has become concentrated in the prime minister’s office — an issue he flagged as early as 2006 in his report for the Gomery Commission, formally the Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities.

“We’re moving away from being a representative democracy with responsible government to the sort of government that is much more autocratic than is compatible with our notions of democratic government,” says Gomery.

If this is the kind of straight talk you appreciate, don’t miss the other lively WSSR workshops. Here’s a preview from two esteemed speakers: Stéphane Dion, current member of parliament (acting as Liberal critic for Intergovernmental Affairs, the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada, Canadian Heritage and Official Languages), former minister of the environment and former minister of Intergovernmental Affairs; and Kevin Page, former parliamentary budget officer and current Jean-Luc Pepin research chair at the University of Ottawa. 

Stéphane Dion, member of parliament and former leader of the Liberal Party:  “We need to be good citizens of the world and not leave it to others to be leaders.” Stéphane Dion, member of parliament and former leader of the Liberal Party: “We need to be good citizens of the world and not leave it to others to be leaders.” | Photo by Grant Oyston (Wikimedia Commons)

Stéphane Dion: How can we build stronger environmental policy?

Stéphane Dion wants to make one thing clear: he is not a trained scientist, but he listens when scientists tell him that we need to act now to protect the environment — or the next generation will be in a bad spot.

“[Legislators] aren’t here to be emotional or to deny the facts,” says Dion. “We’re here to accept what science is telling us and find the right policies to address the issues. I feel it’s my obligation.”

During his all-day WSSR workshop on May 20, 2015, Dion will discuss the science behind environmentalism, along with an analysis of environmental policy in Canada. He’s just the member of parliament to do it too, given he was minister of the environment from 2004 to 2006. During that time, he secured what is widely considered one of the greenest budgets in the history of Canada. He also chaired the UN Conference on Climate Change, held in Montreal in 2005.

In 2006, having been elected as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and having become leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons, Dion proposed a visionary plan to make Canada richer, fairer and greener — contributing to his reputation as the architect of the “green shift.”

“We’ve been warming the atmosphere since Confederation by industrialization,” says Dion. “If we don’t act, the costs will be huge for the next generation. Look at the droughts in California and Texas. Global warming has no gains, because it won’t result in a longer season for agriculture. It’ll cause more extreme events, like floods, droughts, forest fires and more.”

Dion believes we need to start using more renewable energy, and doing more to protect our forests. But is this really enough?

“Canada must do much more,” say Dion. “We were perceived as world leaders in 2005, when I was minister of the environment hosting the UN Conference on Climate Change. But since then, well, I don't think it’s a priority of Mr. Harper’s. We need to be good citizens of the world and not leave it to others to be leaders.”

Moving forward, Dion sees two solutions. He wants one world price on carbon.

“As long as carbon emissions are free, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll do enough to address the crisis. I advocate for a world carbon price, just as we have a world oil price. If the problem, meaning oil, has a world price, why shouldn’t the solution have a world price as well? Then everyone will be compelled to see their personal interest linked to the decrease of their use of carbon.”

He also wants to squash the rumour that a carbon price would damage the economy.

“There is no evidence. In fact, the evidence suggests the contrary,” says Dion. “If you put a price on it, you can use that revenue to improve the solutions, such as clean energy, funding research, and investing in education and health.”

Kevin Page, Canada’s first ever parliamentary budget officer: “Canadians must demand institutional renewal.” Kevin Page, Canada’s first ever parliamentary budget officer: “Canadians must demand institutional renewal.”

Kevin Page: The intersection of public finance and politics in Ottawa

“Politics is broken. The U.S. had gridlock. We have dysfunction.”

Oy. These are the first three sentences in an email from Kevin Page, who was Canada’s first parliamentary budget officer, from 2008 to 2013. Before that, he was the assistant secretary for macroeconomic policy at the Privy Council Office.

Page is pointing out the issues that will drive his all-day WSSR workshop on June 29, 2015, entitled The Intersection of Public Finance and Politics in Ottawa.

“It’s a workshop for people who want to explore what is wrong with the system without prejudice to simple solutions,” writes Page, who has 27 years of federal public service experience, working in central agencies responsible for budgeting, including the Department of Finance, Treasury Board Secretariat and the Privy Council Office. “We need fearless questions and fearless arguments.”

He plans to examine whether Canada has the institutional structures and political and public service leadership required to address major policy challenges ahead — such as economic growth, jobs, income disparities, climate change, health care and more.

“The good news is that Canada’s economy is growing and that the labour market has strengthened considerably since the 2008 world financial crisis. The less good, or more challenging, news is that our economy is still operating below its potential — some seven years after the 2008 crisis,” writes Page. “The decline in oil prices since the summer of 2014 has temporarily weakened growth, while progress has stalled in reducing our national unemployment rate. Perhaps the most disconcerting news is that private and public capital formation has effectively flatlined over the past two years.”

So what does he propose? “We must raise our investment rate if we are going to improve standards of living in the future. We must re-think our policies for supporting and promoting opportunities for our youth if we are going to enjoy inclusive prosperity as our Canadian economy continues to transition from a resource extraction and manufacturing base to a knowledge-based economy.”

Page thinks our institutions and leadership need reform. Leadership, he writes, should be less about control and more about building. Institutions must be about connecting.

“Parliament has become disconnected from Canadians. Canadians must demand institutional renewal and a leadership focus on issues that will matter in the years ahead.”


Find out more about the 
2015 Workshops in Social Science Research, May 4-June 29.

 



Back to top Back to top

© Concordia University