Paranoid Style

November 2017

Every single person I know is troubled by what is going on in the politics of the USA. Political life in Canada is not perfect by any stretch, but at least, or so I believe, it has so far escaped the profoundly bitter and antagonistic nature of the divides in the USA — over guns, race, economic inequality, and the way people vote.

For whatever reason, I woke up in the middle of the night and recalled a book I had once read, one written by the American historian Richard Hofstadter. entitled The Paranoid Style in American Politics. It’s a book that explains a lot, because, here we are, more than fifty years later, and the paranoid style of American politics is still around, more virulent than ever. As Canadians, let’s do our best never to go down this path.

Here’s a link to the magazine article Hofstadter wrote before putting out the book. https://harpers.org/archive/1964/11/the-paranoid-style-in-american-politics/

L’Explosion d’Halifax

October 2017

With the centenary of the Halifax Explosion (Dec. 6, 1917) on the horizon, Radio-Canada TV journalist Olivier Lefebvre wanted my thoughts on the importance of the event. We recorded our conversation today, in the Hydrostone market area.

French en Amérique

October 2017

Bonjour Francophones et Francophiles! Pour ceux et celles qui s’intéressent au contexte nord-américain de la langue et la culture française, il y a une série produite par TFO, avec le titre “French en Amérique, qui mérite votre attention. Il y a deux épisodes, et j’ai participé dans le tournage pour le deuxième quand j’étais en Alabama pendant le festival de Mardi Gras en février 2017. Le lien en dessous vous mène à cette deuxième épisode. Je me trouve dans trois parties : avec l’archéologue Greg Waselkov au site de Old Mobile, en assistance au défilé (parade) de Mardi Gras à Mobile, et à Fairhope pendant mon séjour comme écrivain en résidence au Centre for the Writing Arts.

https://www.tfo.org/fr/univers/french-en-amerique/101048429/2eme-partie

Palmes académiques

October 2017

It is coming up on the eighth anniversary of my admission as a chevalier to France’s Ordre des Palmes académiques. It was — and still is — a great honour that continues to motivate me to write as best I can about whatever interests me at the moment.

The odd thing is that although my admission took place in 2008, I didn’t find out about it until 2011, when a letter arrived from Rideau Hall. It clearly takes quite a while for Canada to approve honours given to its citizens by another country.


Canada’s Senate

September 2017

The transformation taking place in Canada’s Senate is nothing short of remarkable. Where before — for nearly 150 years — the Senate had always been a place of partisan appointments made by the party in power, it has under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau become an imaginative experiment in gender balance and non-partisanship. Both aspects are, in my opinion, well worth celebrating.

It is the recent appointment of New Brunswick writer David Adams Richards to the upper house that prompts me to write this note. That appointment, plus a host of others preceding it — including those made about one year ago to place Wanda Thomas Bernard and Dan Christmas in the Senate to represent Nova Scotia — have the potential to create a quite different kind of politics in Canada, in the Senate at least. Independent-minded and thoughtful Canadians from their regions are starting to outnumber the earlier partisan appointments. Though journalists don’t pay much attention to Senate debates, maybe they should.

It is now only a matter of time for the Senate to achieve gender parity. The process is well under way. Moreover, since it has become a condition of eligibility to be non-partisan, the Senate has the potential to avoid the kind of petty squabbling that surfaces all too often in the House of Commons. Issues can be debated on their merits, and only their merits, in a chamber of independent Senators. I’m sure a cynic will call that naive, and maybe it is. But I like to think of it as more of an ideal to work toward.

Another potential virtue of the upper house as it is coming to be, is that it could evolve into a chamber of long-range thinking on behalf of Canada and its regions. Senators do not face elections, so they should be able to look beyond the pressing short-term issues that are the primary focus of the House of Commons and its MPs. Canada is facing many long-term issues — from climate change and rising seas to income inequality to demographic shifts. Having an institution of our Parliament looking at long-term trends and consequences could bring enormous benefits.

Vanguard Interview No. 2

July 2017

Here is a link to the broadcast version of my conversation with the engaging CBC journalist Felicia Latour. Our chat about the new Vanguard exhibit at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History was broadcast on CBC Mainstreet (Halifax) on July 5, 2017.