“Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried”, said the eminently quotable Winston Churchill. As flotsam on the seas of prorogation, leadership contests and looming elections, we OLIP interns are starting to understand what he was getting at.* Despite his acknowledgement of its shortcomings, parliamentary democracy had no better friend than Churchill. Recently, we OLIP interns had a chance to honour both the man and his favourite form of government at the annual Churchill Society Dinner.
Every year, the Churchill Society holds a dinner celebrating the legacy of Sir Winston Churchill and parliamentary democracy in Canada. Part of the celebration is the presentation of an Award for Excellence in the Cause of Parliamentary Democracy. This year’s honoree was Reform Party founder and former leader of the Official Opposition Preston Manning. The evening also raises money for the Society’s work in support of democracy, which includes sponsoring programmes such as ours! As beneficiaries of the Society, we were also lucky enough to earn invitations to the dinner.
With there being no such thing as a free lunch (or dinner?), the Society asked us to help with the event’s setup and execution. Manning the registration table, we had the chance to review the entire guest-list – a fascinating catalog of political movers, shakers and legends. The list of current and former parliamentarians, MPPs, ministers and other worthies left this follower of Canadian politics a little star-struck.
A gala in the name of Winston Churchill was necessarily destined to be a classy affair. It did not disappoint. Imagine, if you can, a room full of tuxedoed (or be-kilted) gentlemen and glittering ladies raising port-charged glasses to the Queen. You get the idea. The evening’s program centered around honouring Mr Manning, with an introduction by Minister Jason Kenney and a video tribute featuring the Right Honourable Stephen Harper. In addition to the Guest of Honour’s speech, the renowned Churchill biographer Paul Reid discussed several less-known aspects of his subject’s wartime leadership. Almost as if it was a prerequisite for admission, every speaker included at least one Churchill witticism in his remarks. For the record, this was my favourite: when one of his MPs defected to the opposition, Churchill apparently stood up and thanked him for “raising the IQ on both sides of the House”. This is wit to which all parliamentarians should aspire.
We’d like to thank the Churchill society for both inviting us to their very memorable dinner and continuing to support OLIP in our own engagement with parliamentary democracy. To quote Churchill again, “We are all worms. But I do believe I am a glow-worm”. The Churchill Society’s sponsorship helps us to, hopefully, glow a little ourselves.
*This sentence reminds me of Churchill’s stance on not ending sentences with prepositions: “This rule is the kind of nonsense up with which I shall not put”.