The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.
Governor General of Canada
I am writing, with respect, to express my hopefulness and optimism for the future of our great nation. I do not presume to be a constitutional expert. I can only imagine that you are seeking counsel from the best that Canada can offer to navigate these challenging times. However, I do claim some expertise in understanding the historical context of change, and in particular, the effects of the technological context that defines our conteporary world. This is the area of my research at the University of Toronto, and a topic on which I have written and spoken many times around the world.
We are living in a world that is ubiquitously connected, and therefore we all feel the effects of being pervasively proximate. We have, as a society, recently passed through what I would describe as a "break boundary" between a cultural epoch that was defined by industrialization and power hierarchies that relied on a singular authority, and the current epoch that is defined by the juxtaposition of multiple contexts and emergent stability from complex interactions.
Although U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is hailed as the first "Internet President," the crisis facing our country can indeed be characterized as being consistent with this notion of juxtaposition of multiple contexts, with the opportunity to create emergent stability from complex interactions. According to the research that I have done that identifies some of the most effective organizations in a contemporary context, the ability to create collaborations among people who bring diverse contexts, and to accomplish the objectives that emerge from that complex collaboration, is determinant and characteristic of organizations best suited for, and consistent with, contemporary times.
Canadians have the opportunity to be the first in the world to enjoy such collaborative governance. The ability to meld such diverse contexts into a functioning government is a rare chance to face the global crises in an innovative way: not only the immediate economic crisis, but the ecological, peace-building, and social justice crises that plague the world, as well. As President-elect Obama is assembling a Cabinet and advisors that will inform his policies from diverse contexts, so too will Canada have the benefit of non-doctrinaire, non-ideologically driven leadership from among the three parties now proposing what is technically called a coalition government, but in fact could be the first collaborative government.
Unlike minority governance situations that have occurred in other countries, ours is not so much a matter of achieving power through coalition, but rather a matter of being able to achieve progressive objectives through collaboration.
According to news reports, you have already received a formal letter indicating that the current Government does not enjoy the confidence of the House, and that there are sufficient members who will be able to govern with that majority confidence. Together, they do represent the majority of Canadian voters. Additionally, you may soon be asked by the Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament. It is now eminently clear that this request is being done for the sole purpose of avoiding a confidence motion that will inevitably come sooner or later. I respectfully suggest that such an action by the Prime Minister demonstrates a blatant disrespect for Parliamentary will, and equally, a cynical disrespect for the 60% of Canadian voters who did not vote for the Conservative Party.
As you are well aware, our country and the world at large are facing multiple crises of unprecedented proportions. To allow Mr. Harper to defer the ability to deal with these crises for yet another month for the sole purpose of retaining power - power that he has recently demonstrated his government will irresponsibly wield - would be, I suggest, tremendously unfortunate for our country, and especially for those who are the most vulnerable to economic turmoil.
I urge you to deny any request by the Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament. Instead, require that he follow the Constitution and ask for the confidence of the House as soon as possible.
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto
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