In January of 1996, when Bob Rae declared he was stepping down as the leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, the media was full of praise for the former premier of Ontario. In From Protest to Power, Rae provides a surprising, frank look back at his time in politics. Shedding light on his rise to power from radical student politics to becoming the leader of the first NDP government to hold power in Ontario. He takes a look at his incredible life from Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and studying with philosopher Isaiah Berlin to his life as a family man.
In the fall of 2006, with Bob Rae running for the federal leadership of the Liberal Party, it is time for us to examine his remarkable life once more. A life that has been motivated by the belief that politics and public service matter.
As he says in the new introduction, “I am running because I care deeply about my country. I want it to stay strong. I want it to stay together. And I want to play whatever part I can to help make those things happen.”
Learn more about what makes Bob run.
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Bob Rae was born in Ottawa in 1948. He has a B.A. and an LL.B. from the University of Toronto and was a Rhodes Scholar in 1969. He obtained a B.Phil. degree from Oxford University in 1971. He served as Ontario's 21st Premier, and was elected to federal and provincial parliaments eight times.
Mr. Rae is now a partner at the law firm of Goodman Phillips and Vineberg. His memoir, From Protest to Power: Personal Reflections on a Life in Politics, was a national bestseller.
Introduction to the 2006 edition
I wrote this book soon after my resignation as leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party in 1996. It was a “first draft of history,” with the strengths and weaknesses that come from immediacy. Some complained that it was not partisan or progressive enough, some that it was too defensive, some praised it, some slammed it. Such is life.
The decade since 1996 has been very much a second career, beginning with my association with the Goodmans law firm in Toronto. To return to the practice of law with such a congenial and able group of colleagues has been a real pleasure. My work on corporate governance and restructuring has taken me into the practical and ever-changing world of the market place. I have developed an even deeper conviction that how a society becomes and remains prosperous lies at the heart of a successful public policy.
In a great many countries this question has been seized by reforming social democratic parties as a central one. Despite the best efforts of a few, such has not been the case with the federal New Democratic Party. I resigned from the NDP when I was named to the Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 1998. That appointment involved some adjudication of complaints by citizens of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), and I did not want any appearance of conflict in that new role. But there was also steady disenchantment with both the federal and Ontario New Democratic parties, and in particular their failure to embrace fully the need for change, and to practice balance in all aspects of policy, both domestic and foreign.
I had a chance to work on a number of fascinating challenges: the work of Canada’s intelligence and security services, with SIRC; the restructuring of the Canadian Red Cross; issues of federal governance around the world, with the Forum of Federations; the softwood lumber dispute; the dispute at Burnt Church, New Brunswick; the review of higher education for the McGuinty government; and the Air India bombing. Throughout it all I worked as a lawyer on negotiation, mediation, and corporate governance. It has hardly been a retirement!
The review of CSIS, which continued even more intensively with my Air India work, brought home to me the challenge of reconciling the protection of security and the maintenance of civil liberties. The difficulty of this balance was of course heightened by 9/11 and even more recently by the arrests in June 2006 over allegations of a bomb plot in Ontario.
In my experience with SIRC, and through subsequent work in Sri Lanka and with the victims of the Air India terrorist bombing tragedy, I have come to know the risks of living in a dangerous world.
Isolated as we may feel from the troubles of the Middle East, South Asia, or even central London, we are in the world, and the world is in us.
The face of violence may be new, but there is nothing new about extremism.
The Air India bombing was conceived, planned, and carried out in Canada. A bomb was built in British Columbia, placed on a plane in Toronto, and loaded aboard a flight bound for India. All 330 people aboard Flight 182 were killed in an instant.
The challenge of recognizing extremism and its potential for violence tests all of us, including our security and policing services. They were at the heart of the security and intelligence failures in 1985. To a significant extent, air safety was revamped in the immediate wake of Air India and has been again since 9/11, but the circumstances that surrounded the activities were more complex. It is apparent, from my work on SIRC, and from my review of the Air India matter, that the RCMP and CSIS have come some way since then. This was evident through the joint appearance at their press conference announcing the arrest of the seventeen men in June 2006. Seamless cooperation, working within their mandates but closely with each other when necessary, is critical to ensuring the transition from an intelligence investigation to a law-enforcement operation in order to save lives and hold to account those who are violating our most basic laws.
CSIS has come a long way since 1985 when it was an agency in its infancy, focused to a great extent on the Cold War. It will have to keep changing, in an effort to respond to newer threats with different aims. The emergence of terror cells in Montreal and the arrest of the Millennium bomber spurred these changes in a way that simply did not happen sufficiently in 1985.
An even broader challenge to our society is to make sure we respond to the threat of violence fully within the best traditions of Canadian values. Those principles, along with our basic rights, are safeguarded by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which have been upheld by the Courts. But they lie in public opinion as well.
Incidents of terror and threats to the safety of the public can test our sense of equality, tolerance, openness, and the compact with our fellow citizens that is the basis of the civil society we have enjoyed in this country. There are people who have suggested that some levels of coercive interrogation are acceptable: I disagree. Canada should not fall prey to those who are carried away by the moment.
We must protect cherished values. We must do it as citizens. Government alone cannot ensure the outcome. Public confidence in our system of justice, and in the fundamental features of our free society must persevere. We must keep our perspective and hold sight of basic values when we react to such incidents. Our society must resist any backlash. The growth of intolerance or hate, which can take root in the wake of alleged terror plots in the name of a religion or cause, poses the strongest challenge to citizens as well as to governments.
How Canada responds will be a profound test of our values and our capacities as a country.
My deep involvement in matters constitutional over many years led to the fascinating challenge of working on federal governance around the world. I became the founding Chair of the Forum of Federations, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Ottawa that now has members ranging from Mexico to India. We sponsored a successful conference in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, attended by President Bill Clinton and many other heads of state in 1999, and began work around the world.
The Forum was, and is, all about governance, sharing experiences, building on Canada’s own history of federalism, and creating a world-wide dialogue on diversity, conflict, and the need for change in governments. My work in the Forum led to invitations to visit Sri Lanka, a country in turmoil. I have been many times.
The island nation of nearly 20 million has endured a harsh civil conflict for more than a generation. Simmering disputes about language, religion, jobs, and political power have grown into an intractable guerrilla war.
It seems a long way from the tropical beauty of Sri Lanka to Canada — but because we have the largest Tamil diaspora community, and have (so far successfully) coped with our deep cultural and linguistic divides, Sri Lankans have turned to Canada for support in their peace negotiations.
It is proving difficult. South Africa, the most outstanding example of peaceful constitutional change in recent times, achieved its success because re-making the constitution was ultimately seen as an issue that transcended partisan politics. This is decidedly not the case in Sri Lanka, where the subordination of peacemaking to inter-party rivalry has made nation-building extraordinarily difficult.
There’s also a question about the real willingness to share power. Violence against civilian populations, the assassination of political opponents, the recruitment of children into guerrilla units: such means are an affront to any notion of the rule of law and are incompatible with democracy and federalism. They are happening every day in Sri Lanka.
The challenge ahead is great indeed. It requires unambiguous commitment from the majority to pluralism and the principle of self-determination within a single country. And it requires a commitment to the rule of law and non-violent change. Constitutional change must be transparent and persuasive even to the farmers and spice traders in the countryside. It cannot be done by stealth by urban élites.
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Book Description Viking, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110670868426
Book Description Viking, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0670868426