Friday, January 29, 2010

MPs and religion

UPDATE: Thank you to a reader who pointed out a factual error in the initial post. It has been corrected.

Over at Samara we're working on our MP exit interview project. One observer , in reading this post about this post about Canada's amateur politicians, asked me over Twitter if our lack of a "political class" meant there was more influence of religion in our politics and wondered also how that was related to the amount of formal education MPs had. I agreed to look further into the educational backgrounds of MPs to see how many had religious training.

The answer only includes the sub-set of former MPs involved in our project, and we
know a bit about their backgrounds already. However, for more specific detail on any religious training, I emailed our summer intern, Devan Sommerville, for help. Devan compiled excellent biographical packages on 139 MPs involved in our project and is a wealth of knowledge on politics in general.

His response is longer than Twitter allows, so I've paraphrased his answer here:

Several of the former MPs in our sample had formal religious training. The Hon. Bill Blaikie (NDP Elmwood-Transcona) is an ordained minister in the United Church. Raymond Gravel (Bloc Repentigny) is a practicing priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Those are the former MPs that stand out in my mind from our sample, and there may have been another one or two with theology degrees.

It is worth noting that both these men championed social policies that were often at odds with their respective denominations. In fact, Gravel was forced to resign or be removed from the priesthood due to his support for issues such as gay marriage.

Your questioner also wondered about party affiliation. While there certainly are some vocal Christians in the Conservative party (Stockwell Day, Chuck Strahl, Harold Albrecht, David Sweet, Maurice Vellacott, etc), it is not a purely “low-brow” Conservative issue. Many have post-secondary education, although not in theology. Furthermore, longtime Toronto Liberal MPs like Tom Wappel (ret) (Law – Queen’s) and John McKay (Law – Queen’s) are active Christians as well, and have legislated from that perspective. In fact, the strongest bastion of Liberal opposition to the gay marriage amendment was in the GTA (Scarborough, Etobicoke and Mississauga) – mostly from MPs that opposed it on religious-moral grounds that went beyond just Christianity.

So there's a bit more colour on the question. As with many things, not as straightforward as it may seem.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some thoughts on Parliament

Over at the Samara blog, I've been writing a bit about the functioning of Parliament. I've been inspired by the interest in this month's proroguing of the House and by and this paper, written by my former professor Ned Franks.

First, some evidence that Parliament is, and has been, spending less and less time sitting over the past half-century.

Second, it looks like governments are a lot less effective at getting things passed too.

Finally, in response to some great questions from a reader, a few different angles. There's been a much wider variety in Parliament's sitting days, over time. In some years, it barely sits. In others, it barely rests.

Also, it looks as though, even with prorogation, the Canadian Parliament sits much more than several of its provincial and international counterparts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The British Council is looking for up-and-coming young Canadians

The British Council, the UK's organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities, is looking for early-career Canadians (and others) to participate in their TN2020 network, which includes participation in their upcoming summit in Chicago in June 2010.

They are particularly interested in people focused in one of the following three areas: sustainable living; economic inequality and access and divided communities.

More information, including how to apply (applications are due on January 17), is available here.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

It's the end 'o the year...

...and the end 'o the decade, giving journalists and commentators an opportunity to summarize things in easy-to-digest lists. Over at the Samara blog, we've captured a few of the best lists that have stumbled our way:
  • Foreign Policy's list of the top 100 Global Thinkers. A reminder of all the wonderful people out there doing incredible things.
  • Barnes and Noble's best politics and policy books of 2009. I like this list, because unlike those from the Globe and the NYT, there are only four books, and they highlight those that had the most influence this year, regardless of when they were written.
  • The results of the Hill Times' annual all-politics poll, and their best Canadian politics/policy books of the year.
  • A compendium of other lists, including the most requested New Yorker articles this decade, the Atlantic's most-read stories of the year and the top political cartoons of 2009.
And if that's not enough, the end-of-year news quizzes, courtesy of the Globe and the NYT, are here.

Enjoy, and please add any more below.