Canada’s Founding Debates | Eds. Janet Ajzenstat, Paul Romney, Ian Gentles & William D. Gairdner

Recommended by: Michael Taube

This post is part of the LRC’s 25 year anniversary project. We are asking our readers for the most influential Canadian books published in the last quarter century. For more information, click here.


 

TaubeCanadian politics has had a rich history of leaders, thinkers and parties. Alas, the modern political process is a source of frustration for most participants.

The House of Commons is viewed as a bitter, partisan entity where party discipline trumps individual rights and free expression. Meanwhile, the Senate has transformed from a body of sober second thought into a rubber stamp for Parliament and resting ground for political cronies.

Maybe it’s time for us to reread an important political book, Canada’s Founding Debates (1999). It depicted what our Parliament used to be, and what it could—and should—be again.

The four co-editors revealed that our early politicians, including John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier, had debates which “represent political deliberation at a high level.” They were enamoured with politics, history and law. They passionately dissected concepts such as liberty, democracy and national identity. They articulated independent visions for a federal union, minority rights and economic prosperity, among other things.

Moreover, our Founders spoke of a Canadian Confederation in beautiful prose. They drew on “British political thinkers of their day, especially John Stuart Mill,” and were “clearly steeped in the thought of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau.”

Canada’s Founding Debates remains, in my view, one of the most important books published in the past 25 years. It was a shining example of early Canadian political discourse at its finest. Today’s Parliamentarians could therefore learn some important lessons in the words, ideas and conduct of their predecessors.

 


Michael Taube is a columnist and Washington Times contributor. He was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.