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The Democracy Cookbook

HSS project offers up "recipes" to improve N.L. political system

By Janet Harron

Food writer Michael Pollan has called the family meal “the nursery of democracy.”

Renowned restaurateur Alice Waters believes that food can be used to teach values that are central to democracy.

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, where an innovative and unique food culture exists cheek by jowl with a political situation that appears to lunge from crisis to crisis, a new publication from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences is set to provide suggestions on improving our democratic institutions.

Opinion pieces

The Democracy Cookbook is a true example of interdisciplinary practice.

Co-edited by political scientist Dr. Alex Marland and author and professor Lisa Moore, the publication consists of 76 opinion pieces and 11 actual recipes authored by a cross-section of academics, students, journalists, restaurateurs and other citizens.

“In itself, the book is a form of public engagement.” — Dr. Alex Marland

He says the main objective of the publication is to provide ideas and suggestions to the provincial All-Party Committee on Democratic Reform, to be formed in the spring of 2018.

“In itself, the book is a form of public engagement,” said Dr. Marland, a leading specialist on Canadian politics who, with Prof. Moore, received support from the Public Engagement Accelerator Fund from the Office of Public Engagement to complete the project.

“The more than 80 people involved in its production — 46 women, 42 men and one transgender author — are now aware of the committee and its mandate. Anyone who comes into contact with the book and its contents will also be aware that a discussion about democratic reform is stirring.”

Small but positive changes

For Dr. Marland, The Democracy Cookbook is about encouraging a variety of small changes that can introduce positive change fairly easily, which ideally do not cost anything.

Authors’ essay topics include suggestions on rule changes to allow mothers to breastfeed in the House of Assembly (Christina Doonan); decolonizing through storytelling (Vicki Hallett); integrating the knowledge and expertise of volunteers (Clifford Grinling); and learning to listen through walking with someone from a different background (Elizabeth Yeoman).

Many other contributors have written about changing the rules that govern political parties and which shape how government operates.

In his essay, Memorial alumnus Drew Brown advocates for the use of parliamentary committees where citizens can put their insights into various legislative concerns on the record.

In the video below, the freelance writer and VICE contributor shares his views about Newfoundland and Labrador’s failure to come to terms with its historical losses and how that has translated into a current “despondent political culture.”

Political in local literature

Co-editor Lisa Moore wrote about the political in local literature and says she learned a tremendous amount from the project.

“I learned technical things about governance that I had no idea about,” she said.

“I learned avenues for approaching politicians. I learned a ton about community groups and individuals who are working tirelessly to affect change. I learned about a lot of generosity and goodwill in terms of making this province a fantastic place to live – which we all know it to be.”

In the video below, Prof. Moore speaks to her essay’s topic, which focuses on how fictional works by Newfoundland and Labrador authors like Bernice Morgan and Michael Crummey “gives voice” to the populace’s political concerns but from an emotional level.

Daily essays

The Telegram will run a daily essay from the book beginning Saturday, Sept. 16, with an accompanying social media presence on Twitter.

“We value democracy and efforts to improve it,” said Steve Bartlett, Telegram managing editor. “Through hearing opinions from different voices, this project will engage readers, and get them thinking about democracy. A lot of good can come of that.”

The project is the first Open Access publication from ISER Books, which means the publication will be available for free to everyone to download in its entirety or partially from the ISER Books website. Individual essays will be rolled out daily through The Telegram until November when a book launch will take place on Memorial’s St. John’s campus.

Hard copies will also be available for purchase at that time.


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