The "No To Electoral Reform Without a Referendum" Project
I'm rather exercised by this idea among some governments that our electoral system is defective, even "undemocratic." I'm in favour of doing things that will make the electorate more engaged and more willing to vote, but there is no evidence that changes to the "first-past-the-post" method that has been in use in this country for generations (2017 is the 225th anniversary of the first electoral campaign in Canada!!) will deliver on any of that.
In November 2015 I wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star denouncing the federal government's intention to proceed on electoral reform without the explicit consent of the people.
"Trudeau's arrogant, misguided approach to electoral reform" Toronto Star, 9 December 2015.
In April, I wrote about the importance of strengtnening local democracy by allowing political parties to form in municipalites.
"Toronto Needs Political Parties" Toronto Star, 13 April 2016
In June, I wrote two pieces. The first is on how Ontario's new legislation on municipal elections has done little to strengthen local democracy:
"How Ontario's Election Reforms Prop up Your Municipal Councillors" Ottawa Citizen, 16 June 2016
I also wrote a piece in the Globe and Mail to make the case that the government of Canada must go to the people on any electoral reform package:
"Without a Referendum, Electoral Reform is Unconstitutional" Globe and Mail, 23 June 2016
I appeared before the Special Committee on Electoral Reform of the Parliament of Canada in July 2016. My testimony is here.
Working with staff, former students and current students at Ryerson's excellent school of Radio and Television Arts, I created a Walking Tour that introduces Sir John A. Macdonald to a Toronto audience.
Since 2011 I have had the privilege of being President of the Champlain Society, an organization created in Toronto in 1905 to help preserve and promote the original documents of some of the most influential Canadians. To know more, please visit our website. Why not become a member and, better still, make a donation?
Restoring Macdonald/ Mowat House
Since late 2013, I have spearheaded a campaign to help restore the home that was owned by Sir John A. Macdonald in Toronto. He moved to Toronto after his defeat in 1873 and eventually bought the house at 63 St. George Street. It was in this house that Macdonald plotted his party's return to power and conceived the National Policy. As such, what happened in these rooms is of national historic importance.
The University of Toronto has done a splendid job of preserving the home, making use of it to house the Graduate Studies department. In 2015, the Friends of Sir John A. Macdonald in Toronto donated $25,000 to the House, and the "office" has been restored to its glory! We are delighted that the University of Toronto shuttered the house in November 2015 for some major restorations. Our vision for the home is slowly being realized.
The Macdonald TOPONOMY Project
In December 2013, I published an op-ed piece in the Toronto Star suggesting that it was high time Canadians paid tribute to their first prime minister by naming streets after him. There are only three such streets in Canada: Kingston, Saskatoon and Ottawa. I went further by proposing that this might be the right opportunity to do something about Avenue Road, the most ridiculously named artery in North America (really, why not Avenue Road Street?).
The Toronto Star supported that position in February in an editorial, and City Council adopted a motion to have city staff look into the matter. Since then, nothing has happened. I had hoped something could be done in time for the Macdonald Bicentennial in January 2015.
This project continues to be important to me, but falls into a broader context: the names we have given Toronto Streets (in Canada, for that matter) need to be explained, sorted out and, in some cases, changed so that citizens can remind themselves of individuals and events who have had a great, positive impact on our city, our province, our country and our world. More to come on this; stay tuned.
We should be driving on ‘Sir John A. Macdonald Avenue’, Toronto Star, 29 December 2013
Toronto should honour Sir John A. Macdonald: Editorial, Toronto Star, 6 February 2014
My second piece on street-naming generally:
Toronto should dare to remember Sir John A., Toronto Star, 18 February 2014