January’s Recommended Read: The Democracy Cookbook

The Democracy Cookbook is a collection of short and snappy opinion pieces from 89 prominent locals, and it’s meant to get us talking about better governance in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is not a book of academics talking over your head; it’s a book of intelligent and passionate Newfoundlanders making solid points on how to craft a better, healthier, more vibrant Newfoundland & Labrador.

Dr. Alex Marland brought the book into being. He says, “I wanted to connect with the cultural community and with anyone who cares about democracy, but who might not know a lot about the government system.”

He says the book originated from a public discussion at MUN in 2016, about the province’s political crisis de jour. “Everyone there was far too eager to point fingers and blame politicians. There was little sense that we are in this mess because politicians have been responding to public pressure to spend, spend, spend. Furthermore, nobody seemed willing to do anything about it themselves.”

He says it became clear that professors at MUN could really generate some necessary discourse on the matter, and he went looking for the right co-pilot to help his conviction take flight. Via the Head of the English Department, he was connected to author and professor Lisa Moore.

“Instead, we ended up with a playfully named Democracy Cookbook with 89 contributions from a variety of academics, journalists, student opinion leaders, and members of the public. The Telegram ran the pieces daily for two months.””We didn’t know each other and we developed an outstanding working relationship,” Marland says. “Lisa’s imagination combined with the superb skills of staff at ISER Books brought a creative flair to the project. Political scientists would have produced a boring manual that would perhaps be read in detail by a small number of public servants.

ISER Books paired the book launch with a debate among prominent MHAs, including Government House Leader Andrew Parsons. All 40 MHAs were mailed a copy of the book.

“Minister Parsons has said that the All Party Committee on Democratic Reform will be formed in early 2018. Because of The Democracy Cookbook, more people are talking about democratic reform, and are aware of the important work that lies ahead for the committee. We are optimistic that meaningful change is more likely as a result of everyone’s efforts [in this book].”

The book’s publisher, MUN’s ISER Books, is making such discourse easier by making the book available, for free, on its website this month. You can also buy physical copies at a bookstore near you.

If there is a recipe for a better democracy, it can’t come from one person. This book proves that by enlisting the informed perspectives of nearly ninety locals on many specific topics, demonstrating just how much thought must be thrown, like ingredients, into such a melting pot.  However, the book does show  that a better government is an attainable thing. The dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of essays in this book are bang on, and cover much ground  for our leaders to mull over.

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