Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ralph Goodale Pays Tribute To Dr. Lloyd Barber

Ralph Goodale pays tribute to a great Saskatchewanean:


Close to 1500 people streamed into the big gymnasium at the University of Regina last week to say farewell to the late Dr. Lloyd Barber. He passed away on September 16th at the age of 79.

Proficient in business and intensely interested in Aboriginal issues, Dr. Barber’s passion was always higher learning and knowledge.

He was a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan and later returned there to teach, becoming Dean of Commerce and then Vice-President. In 1976, he began a remarkable 15-year stint as President of the “new” University of Regina.

During that period, Dr. Barber was a driving-force behind the creation of Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, which later became First Nations University. He found great wisdom in a saying by historic Cree Chief Ahtahkakoop about “education being the ‘new buffalo’ for Indian people”.

For his work in Indian education (and his 12 years as Canada’s Indian Land Claims Commissioner), Saskatchewan First Nations people named him Honourary Indian Chief Little Eagle.

Lloyd Barber believed in fact-based decision-making rooted in the pursuit of truth, reasoned arguments, and the broadest dissemination of knowledge. He wanted young people especially to be inspired by curiosity, to stretch their minds and think critically for themselves.

For these reasons, he always tried to advance and defend the vital role that universities and other institutions of higher learning play in our society.

If we want to be fiscally and economically successful, if we want to be productive, competitive and socially progressive, if we want to generate better jobs and higher disposable incomes, if we want to insulate ourselves from things like recessions – then we need to invest in knowledge, learning and skills.

One of his favourite quotes (from Harvard educator Derek Bok) was this: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”.

Good point, Dr. Barber. Thank you for a life well-lived.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Confrontational Governments the Bane of Democracy

The political scene seems to be mirroring the US over the past several years... Parliamentary decorum used to dictate that there was some civility on the Hill. One party can easily change this delicate balance - and HAS. The confrontational attitude assumed by the Harper Conservatives - the whole, "our way is the ONLY way, and if it's not our way you're a lefty, liberal-pinko commie" - has created a crisis in Canadian democracy.

It becomes no use for opposing parties to "be nice" when one side just won't play. The USA saw this with the arrogance and hyper-partisan self-pride of the Republicans under Reagan and Bush (W). Republicans used to be reasonable. Used to work WITH the House. Not anymore. It has become such that even in Opposition, Republicans (particularly of the Tea Party variety) refuse to work with anyone. No compromise is their new path (and part of the plan according to "New American Century" game-plan documents). Someone like Obama is simply made to look the fool when he even attempts to compromise. He suddenly gets the label "weak", and even loses partisan support.

In Canada, we have seen years of the NDP and Liberal opposition being "nice". Talking about how they wish to work "with" the Harper NeoCons, to take the high road. This hasn't worked. You simply CANNOT have a middle ground when one party refuses to move. Particularly when the right-wing owned and operated media monopolies simply brush off any complaints about such behavior... and not in this 15-second attention span, 140 character world... This is clearly a message to our opposition groups to start using the tactics which grew our moderate/liberal movements from the outset: Uncompromising determination on our principles.

Ralph Goodale has a good take on the current state of Canada's Parliament in his latest update:

September 12th, 2011


Last week, I wrote about the consequences of “polarized politics”, where one rigid ideology digs-in against another, resulting in endless confrontation that sucks all the oxygen from the air, but resolves nothing.

A classic example was the reckless polarization in the US Congress this past summer which brought that country to the brink of debt default and another recession.

In Canada, the advocates of a similar right/left divide (the Conservatives and the NDP) claim the alternative is some mushy “middle ground”, watered-down and unpalatable in-between. But they’re wrong.

The alternative to polarization is not some feeble notion of “the centre”. It’s strong leadership around an exciting idea of what this country can achieve – generating enthusiasm and broad-based support.

Polarization is the wedge politics of division. It’s the creation of hot differences between two extremes, which mobilizes the small numbers of people who actually believe in those extremes, while turning-off lots of other folks along the way, suppressing their votes and keeping them at home on election days.

The antidote is inclusion – bridge-building ideas that lift people’s expectations above the tawdry and the mediocre, to something attractive and motivating – something a large cross-section of Canadians can buy into.

So it was when Mackenzie King laid the foundations of our social security system. So it was when Lester Pearson advanced medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, and the flag.

So it was when Pierre Trudeau repatriated the constitution, enshrined the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and forged an independent foreign policy for Canada.

So it was when Jean Chretien and Paul Martin slew the deficit, ushered in a decade of unprecedented fiscal success, said “no” to the war in Iraq, and invested in healthcare, innovation and infrastructure.

The challenge ahead for Liberals is to define fresh uplifting ideas to inspire and engage Canadians – leaving polarization as a relic of the past.

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