The Samara Centre for Democracy recently published a timely item on civic literacy, defined as “the individual-level tools, skills, and knowledge that make democracy work.” It means knowing about government institutions and how they function, being aware of the issues of the day, understanding how to work with(in) the system to pursue an issue, and being careful about the use of media, both printed and on line. I agree wholeheartedly and much of the commentary that follows is based on one of my books (A Citizen's Guide to Government) from two decades ago.
The sky has not fallen yet, but the end must surely be near – or so one would think from the increasingly dramatic coverage and commentary about the handling of a bribery charge against SNC Lavalin. Quebec is being coddled, Alberta is being ignored, women and Natives have been put in their place, and the real Canada has shown its ugly face. Could we all take a breath and look at the situation a little more calmly.
Inspired by the movie Sex, Lies, and Videotape, my provocatively titled article in the February 1997 issue of Municipal World began by confessing that while sex was not really the topic, the province was trying to force some strange municipal couplings. It was a response to the massive municipal amalgamations then being imposed on Ontario municipalities by the Conservative Government of Mike Harris.
We have a new Conservative Government in Ontario and once again the spectre of municipal amalgamations is on the horizon. Movie sequels are seldom as good as the original, but one can only hope that this sequel will not be as bad as the original. Of concern is the continuing fallacy that amalgamations will generate savings, and the authoritarian approach that the Premier has so far exhibited in his dealings with local government. However, the fact that this sequel will involve consultations and is being “directed” by two advisors (Michael Fenn and Ken Seiling) who are extremely experienced and highly regarded gives one cause for cautious optimism.
The full article has been published by Municipal World and is available at https://www.municipalworld.com/feature-story/sex-lies-amalgamations-sequel/
C. Richard Tindal, Ph.D is a retired Professor of Government. He taught for 30 years at St. Lawrence College, Kingston and was an occasional Visiting Professor at Queen's University. He has also written and consulted extensively about government.