To Reform or Not to Reform; That is the Election Question!

Many of us at the Maples Met School have been learning about Parliamentary democracy and how Canadians and Manitobans govern themselves. We have learned that our democratic tradition comes from the Westminster model, or from Great Britain. We have a bicameral system federally, where we have the House of Commons (elected) and the Senate (appointed) as part of Parliament. Manitoba got rid of its upper house at the end of the 19th century.

Over the past few decades and certainly more recently, there has been a great deal of talk in Canada about electoral reform. As we discussed a few weeks ago, our electoral system is a First Past The Post system (FPTP). This means that within each riding or constituency, the person that wins simply needs to get the most votes.

Here is a great explanation of how FPTP works:

Here is a great application made through ArcGIS which illustrates the difference between the number of seats won and the popular vote in the last four elections:



Many Canadians feel that the FPTP system is not fair to smaller parties like the Green Party,the Bloc and even the NDP, as these parties get a lot of votes, but they don’t translate into seats. Some people are advocating for a system of proportional representation, where some representatives are elected based on the popular vote.

In Manitoba, there have been many people who have been advocating for a system of proportional representation. Here is a very interesting article from the CBC looking at how the last provincial election might have been more representative of the popular vote if PR was in place. (PEI is currently contemplating PR.)


Taken from CBC Manitoba

What do you think? Should Canada and Manitoba reform their respective electoral systems? Feel free to respond below or via social media using #DoNowReform.

R.B. Bennett: Significance, Judgement, and Perspective

Photo from CBC

Photo from CBC

Last Saturday, I spent a great deal of time in my car driving kids to violin lessons, water polo practices, and picking my partner up from the airport. En route to one of these activities, I came across a report on the CBC hourly news from Newbrunswick of a statue being constructed or sculpted at the request of the speaker of the Senate.

The speaker, among other Newbrunswickers, is trying to have a likeness of R.B. Bennett, Canada’s Prime Minister during the Great Depression, placed on Parliament Hill adjacent to the other honourees who loom in bronze. Here is the CBC piece via the website. (I apologize for not getting the audio, but nobody from CBC Newbrunswick will get back to me.): Newbrunswickers Pushing for R.B. Bennett Statue

The CBC asked an historian to weigh in. Dr. David Frank from UNB is quoted in the article. This prompted me to email him and ask his opinion on Bennett, significance, ethical judgement, and historical perspective. Here is our correspondence:

Dr. David Frank (Photo from UNB)

Dr. David Frank (Photo from UNB)

He pointed me to a review he did of P.B. Waite’s biography of Bennett:

As you can see from the comments on the CBC article, this has caused a bit of a stir. Even the artists’ own mother was appalled by the idea. So who is this guy who conjures such debate in Canada?

Here are a few resources which I found handy:

Biographer John Boyko who shares a different perspective than Waite:

Boyko in the Winnipeg Free Press:

Donald Benham’s review of Boyko’s book:

Excerpt from the Prime Ministers, edited by Chevrier:

Listen to Bennett himself as he addresses Canada:

Here is the Library and Archives Canada flickr site:

What do you think? Does Bennett warrant a statue? Can you use your historical thinking concepts to develop an argument? What evidence can you cite? Tweet using #SJRCanHis #Bennett or comment below. I am interested in your thought and reflection. Be clear, be courteous, and be smart.

Canada on the World Stage: Past & Present

IMG_1363In Canada and the Contemporary World, we have been discussing at great length Canada’s economic system and the concept of sustainable development. We have looked at the circular flow model, the materials economy via the Story of Stuff, and we looked at the Bruntland Report to begin thinking about the term sustainable development.

Today, Mr. Kope came to our class and led us through the Global Trade Game (Thanks, Mr. Kope!). I was blown away by how you guys were so captivated by the experience and how you immediately started to figure out how the global economy doesn’t necessarily create an even playing field. Many of you realized quickly that the World Bank (Mr. Kope) would make deals ith developing countries that seemed really unethical. Many of you realized that Canada was in a really great spot to not only profit from its own resources, but also from the resources of other countries.

Here are a couple of resources looking at Canada’s role in the world historically:

The Shaping of Canada’s Foreign Policy

Time Line

Here are a couple of articles discussing Canada’s current role in the world:

Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail

The National

Given our discussions on economics, on globalization (the Global Trade Game), on sustainable development, and on current hot spots around the world, what do you think Canada’s role should be? Has it changed based on the articles you have read? Why is this? What is your vision for Canada in the 21st century?

The Right to Die

sue_rodriguezSeptember 30th marked the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 1993 not to allow Sue Rodriguez the right to seek out a physician-assisted suicide. In Canada, we are still debating the issue and at this point, people are not allowed to assist anyone who wishes to determine when they should die. There have been recent cases, like that of Gloria Taylor, which have brought this issue to the forefront of Canadians.

Just last week, Dr. Donald Low released a filmed interview only days before he died advocating for his right to choose when to die. You can view his testimony here:

Where do you stand on this issues? Is it a question of moral reasoning or does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms suggest that we should be moving a head on this issue? Please respond by using evidence from the Charter and other cases. Here is the Supreme Court Decision. What did the nine justices decide and what rationale did they provide?