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Library Associates Luncheon/Lecture Series

How Big Cities and Immigrants Make Canada Great

photo of Carole Moore and Alan Broadbent

Carole Moore with Alan Broadbent.

Alan Broadbent was the guest speaker at the Library Associates Luncheon held on January 26, 2010. Broadbent is a noted philanthropist and author of Urban Nation: Why We Need to Give Power Back to the Cities to Make Canada Strong. As Chairman of the Maytree Foundation and the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, Alan is sought after for his views on cities, immigration and diversity issues.

Broadbent argued that Canada’s cities are the orphans of Confederation, creatures of the provinces locked in constitutional arrangements that are almost a century and a half out of date. With urbanization and immigration, which have changed the face of Canada, large urban regions are now the economic, social, and cultural engines of the country. They compete with other large urban regions around the world to create prosperity and well-being. But cities are not in control of their own destiny. They have few residual powers and limited revenue tools, being overly reliant on property taxes and barred from levying income or sales taxes, the big revenue generators.

The smart solution to these challenges is to give cities an equal seat alongside their federal and provincial counterparts at the governing table, and to support immigration. Cities generate a disproportionate amount of the country’s wealth and are home to the vast majority of Canada’s populace, yet they are hamstrung by a lack of financial and governing clout with which to exercise any real control of their destinies. Even in times of an economic recession, immigrants need to know that we want them and that we want to help them succeed.

Alan Broadbent is a Senior Fellow of Massey College, Member of the Order of Canada, and recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.

Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis

photo of Peter Russell

Peter Russell.

The Library Associates Luncheon held on March 31, 2010, featured University Professor Emeritus, Peter Russell, speaking on the subject of parliamentary democracy in Canada. He is the author of Two Cheers for Minority Government in 2008 and Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis in 2009. He has served as President of the Canadian Political Science Association and Chairman of the Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy.

In November 2008, Stephen Harper’s newly elected minority government presented a highly opposed fiscal update in advance of a proposed budget. The Liberal and New Democratic Parties, supported by the Bloc Québécois, formed a coalition to seek a non-confidence vote and to form a new government. The Prime Minister proceeded to ask Governor General Michaëlle Jean to dissolve Parliament. In late 2009, Michaëlle Jean allowed Parliament to be prorogued. Professor Russell argued that these two actions brought to light how little Canadians understand the workings of parliamentary democracy. They also highlighted the fragility of Canadar’s parliamentary traditions and constitutional safeguards.

Peter Russell argued that Canadians are better served by minority governments than by false majorities—the too-common scenario in which a party wins a commanding majority of seats with fewer than half the votes cast. The multi-party reality in Canada requires that we come to terms with minority governments and coalitions, which are quite common and successful in Europe.

Professor Russell is a frequent commentator on public affairs and has published widely in the fields of judicial, constitutional and aboriginal politics. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and recipient of a number of honorary degrees, including a Doctor of Laws from the University of Toronto.