Encouraging Engagement in Canadian Politics

A good chunk of Canadians have been feeling disillusioned by our current government’s actions that go against what the majority of Canadian actually want. This is unfortunate because the less engaged the populous becomes the easier it is to pass bad policy.

A new organization in Toronto is looking to change this by encouraging leaders to get engaged in politics. It also has a strong emphasis on supporting MPs and helping them stay engaged and get them to encourage other people.

“Our ultimate goal is not to influence policy change on xyz policy issues,” says Loat. “We are much more about igniting the public imagination and conversation.”

One of the first tasks of the fledgling organization, now housed in a Victorian mansion on Prince Arthur Ave, was to figure out not only its actual mission but it premiere project. One idea involved supporting an MP’s difficult transition to public life via a training program, mentoring or even, executive education. Instead, it was suggested that that they simply ask the MPs what they needed.

It was a small suggestion that became a “light bulb” moment. Why not conduct the kind of formal exit interviews common to corporate life?

“We learned that it had never been done before,” says Loat. “And we thought that this is so obvious.”

The two co-founders travelled across the country to do more than half of the 65 interviews personally in what Loat proudly considers to be one of the largest pieces of research on leadership in Canadian history. The results of the MP Exit Interview project, designed specifically for future use by academics, will continue to be published just like The Accidental Citizen; future reports will cover what the work of an MP, their role as the “nexus” between government and citizens and finally, their reflections and recommendations

Read more at Yonge Street Media.

German Millionaires Support Democracy

Remember those super rich folk from the USA who decided to donate half their money? Well, that’s not the German way – and for good reason!

In an interview with Der Spiegel, a German millionaire explains why he thinks it’s best for the state to decide where money should be spent in a democracy.

SPIEGEL: Forty super wealthy Americans have just announced that they would donate half of their assets, at the very latest after their deaths. As a person who often likes to say that rich people should be asked to contribute more to society, what were your first thoughts?

Krämer: I find the US initiative highly problematic. You can write donations off in your taxes to a large degree in the USA. So the rich make a choice: Would I rather donate or pay taxes? The donors are taking the place of the state. That’s unacceptable.

SPIEGEL: But doesn’t the money that is donated serve the common good?

Krämer: It is all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires. So it’s not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide. That’s a development that I find really bad. What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?

SPIEGEL: It is their money at the end of the day.

Krämer: In this case, 40 superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for. That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state. In the end the billionaires are indulging in hobbies that might be in the common good, but are very personal.

Read the rest on Spiegel Online.

What’s Missing in the Media?

If you live in Toronto or area then you should come out to the event Missing in the Media on media democracy day. Come learn about and share what is missing in the mainstream media. The complete schedule is now online. And yes, I’m involved with this 🙂

What is missing in the media? Who is left out from mainstream news coverage in Canada today? A large coalition of independent media organizations, advocacy groups and media activists will ask these questions and more at “Missing in the Media: Media Democracy Day Toronto 2008,” taking place all day on October 23.

What: A series of thematic and skills-building panels and workshops on media democracy followed by a rabble.ca relaunch party with guest speakers Maude Barlow and Linda McQuaig, and musical guests LAL, KoboTown and Maryam Tollar.

When: Thursday, October 23, 2008, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (workshops and panels); 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. (rabble.ca relaunch party).

Where: Free workshops and panels at International Student Centre (33 St. George Street), University of Toronto; Pay-what-you-can rabble.ca relaunch party (suggested $10 to $25 donation to rabble.ca) at the Steam Whistle Roundhouse (255 Bremner Blvd.)

For program details and a list of participating organizations please visit: www.missinginthemedia.ca.

UN’s Declaration of Human Rights in 21 Languages

Oct. 24th is United Nations Day, and to celebrate LibriVox collected the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 21 Languages. You can download audio files of LibriVox volunteers reading the declaration at LibriVox.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was ratified in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly. It defines the fundamental rights of individuals, and exhorts all governments to protect these rights. The UN has translated the document into over three hundred languages and dialects. This audiobook includes readings in 21 languages, by LibriVox volunteers.”

The United Nations wants people around the world to remember that we are all humans and that we should all get along. Today many schools will celebrate the diversity of human culture.

In Costa Rica, UN day is a holiday, awesome!

Hungarian Protesters Force Votes

After weeks of protesting following a leaked tape which contained a confession by Hungarian Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, Hungarian protesters will have the opportunity to express themselves at the ballots. Sunday’s local elections will give the Hungarians a chance to vote for the Prime Minsiter, who was elected in April, or the opposition leader, Viktor Orban.

Protests are expected to continue into their second week, but perhaps will less ferver than before. The opposition party, Fidesz, claims that more than 50 percent of the vote will mean the current government will be ousted. Fidesz has not identified with the protestors after violent clashes last week. The protestors themselves are not aligned with any political group, and there is much dissent among the group, leading to criticism and an uncertainty about the outcome of the ballot. With protests more peaceful, the people of Hungary are looking forward to Sunday’s vote as a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

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