Ray Pennings

Ray Pennings co-founded Cardus in 2000 and currently serves as Executive Vice President, working out of the Ottawa office. Ray has a vast amount of experience in Canadian industrial relations and has been involved in public policy discussions and as a political activist at all levels of government. Ray is a respected voice in Canadian politics, contributing as a commentator, pundit and critic in many of Canada’s leading news outlets and as an advisor and strategist on political campaign teams.

Bio last updated September 7th, 2021.

Ray Pennings

Articles by Ray Pennings

  • Canada’s Common Spiritual Hunger

    After last week’s online National Prayer Breakfast, Cardus Executive Vice President Ray Pennings reflected in his weekly Insights newsletter on how to pray in public – and pluralistic – spaces. Convivium reprints his text.

    What sort of prayer should be offered on such an occasion? Similarly, when invited to speak in the context of worship of a faith tradition other than your own, how do you address the audience? I’ve spoken both in a synagogue and a gurdwara during official Jewish and Sikh services, and felt challenge...

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  • A Christmas of Spiritual Longing

    An Angus-Reid/Cardus poll shows 85 per cent of Canadians abiding by COVID lockdown rules. But human need for family and friends means government can’t take compliance for granted, Ray Pennings warns.

    The last time Cardus partnered with ARI to survey Canadians about a major holiday, around Easter, Passover and Ramadan this past spring, we found religion to be a more significant part of social wellbeing that many realise Of those who consider Christmas a religious holiday, not just a fun and festi...

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  • Addressing Canada’s MAiD Concerns

    Medically assisted death advocates inside and outside Parliament are gung-ho to expand it. But Cardus’ Ray Pennings says national poll numbers show Canadians want MPs to curb their enthusiasm.

    Almost seven in 10 Canadians say decision-makers should seriously consider that expanded access to MAiD might cause people with disabilities or elderly patients to feel “more pressure to choose death in order to avoid being a burden on others Canadians have legitimate and significant worries about h...

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  • Testing COVID for Positives

    Cardus Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings says 2020’s hardships, and concern for what’s next in 2021, can refocus our vision and practices at the personal and social levels.

      The government, like many around the world, responded immediately with emergency financial assistance and loan programs, whose acronyms became quickly familiar to those in need: CERB (Canada Emergency Relief Benefit), CEWS (Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy), and CEBA (Canada Emergency Business Accoun...

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  • What Donald Trump Says About Us

    In his October 3 Insights newsletter, Cardus Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings warns that even as we disdain the President’s politics of authoritarian preening, we must look for them in ourselves.

    President Trump has cozied up to and appears attracted by authoritarian leaders, whether it’s Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan The polls continue to confirm that there is a significant audience for leadership that “gets it done, doesn’t matter how”...

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  • Steady As She Goes

    What Canadians heard in Wednesday’s throne speech might not be exactly what the government intended or even exactly what they said. Communication is difficult, especially when swimming in COVID-infested political waters, Ray Pennings writes.

    The throne speech and the prime minister’s national address missed its chance to bring key social institutions, such as civil society and charities, family, faith communities, or even organized labour in a grand national project of rebuilding Canada Maybe Prime Minister Trudeau was smiling under his...

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  • A Life Story of Giving

    The late Burlington baker's family name was synonymous world-wide with great tasting cookies, but Ray Pennings says the best things about Bill Voortman were his mentorship, friendship, and tireless gifts to build God’s Kingdom.

    Usually the agenda was “How are you doing?”   Bill wasn’t one to engage in formulaic conversations – you knew and felt he genuinely cared When Michael Van Pelt and I began the project now known as Cardus, Bill was among the first to sign on ...

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  • Public Prayer in a Viral Time

    Cardus Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings faced a challenge today of leading our dispersed staff in a reading of Scripture and praying out loud. In these days of isolation, anxiety, and deep need for God’s comfort, Convivium shares the answer he found.

    Our Father in heaven, as the world faces a global health crisis, we praise and adore you because you reign for us in your crucified and risen Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who not only “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17), but also “abolished death and brought life and immortality...

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  • Secularism’s Anti-Charter Ugliness

    Open-minded secularism can bring social benefits but when it seeks to close out religious freedom it injures us all, argues Cardus Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings.

    And that’s why Canadians, religious or not, should help “closed” secularists adopt a more open posture toward public faith. When non-religious Canadians (most of whom are Public Faith Opponents) are asked if various religions in Canada benefit or damage the country, they view all communities except ...

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  • A Tolerant Canada

    Ray Pennings examines the findings of a recent Angus Reid Institute study, which cites both hopeful and worrisome numbers in its summary of Canadians' opinions towards religious freedom. 

    It’s a hopeful sign that 62 per cent of Canadians agree that religious freedom makes Canada a better country Regardless of where we fall among the spectrum of opinions on abortion, is it not concerning to see some Canadians willing to reject candidates simply based on one of their personal beliefs a...

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  • Who Will Govern for the Common Good?

    In their analysis of federal election 2019, Cardus President and CEO Michael Van Pelt and Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings raise the red warning flag that the resulting minority Parliament represents a Canada in critical need of a vision of common life to heal its deep divisions.

    It will take a new kind of leadership and an expansion of our public debate to address public life conflicts that are as much cultural as they are political or matters of public policy alone Reminding voters that the Bloc will evaluate its support for the Liberal government based on its prioritizing...

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  • The Vanishing Point of Political Principles

    Cardus Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings says it’s the swing votes of left-wing pragmatists, not the virtues of the leaders or their parties, that will likely determine whether Justin Trudeau or Andrew Scheer wins Election 2019.

    But the promises of #sunnyways, electoral reform, action on climate change, and an “inclusive” way of doing government attracted 2,769,370 more voters than cast ballots in the previous election The oft-rehearsed litany of broken promises and dubious ethical and personal choices made by the Liberal p...

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  • Why the Public School Monopoly?

    The argument that Canadians must oppose public funding for non-government schools is nonsensical, writes Ray Pennings.

    So, why the phobia against any public support for non-government delivery of public education? As Convivium has reported, in recent decades many parents have found it necessary to supplement public school education with private tutoring In British Columbia, 65 per cent of parents with kids in a non-...

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  • Just in Time Books on Justin

    Cardus Executive Vice President Ray Pennings finds two pre-election books leave open the question of whether Justin Trudeau is a flawed ideologue or a well-intentioned prime minister in training.  

    Is Prime Minister Trudeau an idealist, conscious of the privilege into which he was born and eager to give back to Canada, shaping it towards his own progressive ideals? In that case, the missteps of his government, while frustrating, are likely to be considered forgivable by progressive Canadians a...

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  • Encouraging Faith and Family

    The issues of social isolation and loneliness in Canada are important challenges in our times, writes Cardus Executive Vice President Ray Pennings. Instead of doing away with family life and religiosity as an attempt at social progress, we should recognize the good these factors play in our lives.

    Three-quarters of Canadians who say they’re well-connected and have rich social lives are in a marriage or common law relationship While marriage isn’t for everyone – and it should always be entered by choice, never by force – the problems of social isolation and loneliness underline the importance ...

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  • A Case for Religious Freedom

    Canadians, including journalists, have forgotten how vitally connected religious freedom is to other constitutionally-protected freedoms, writes Ray Pennings, executive vice-president at Cardus.

    In other words, the media don’t see Quebec’s violation of religious freedom for what it is because many Canadians don’t either Sadly, the difference in the volume of media coverage in these two cases seems also to mirror Canadians’ waning understanding of religious freedom ...

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  • Innovate to Educate

    In late March, parallel to the annual Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa, Convivium's parent think tank Cardus hosted a panel discussion on educational innovation. Alberta journalist Danielle Smith spoke with Ray Pennings, executive vice president of Cardus, and Deani Van Pelt, President of Edvance Christian Schools Association.

    Good education for the public good across all delivery mechanisms, and until we get a sense that good education can be developed and delivered, designed regardless of whether it’s government delivering it or not, I think that’s going to be one of the barriers to education reform, certainly in this p...

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  • Educating Globally, Deciding Locally

    In late March, parallel to the annual Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa, Convivium's parent think tank Cardus hosted a panel discussion on educational innovation. Alberta journalist Danielle Smith spoke with Ray Pennings, executive vice president of Cardus, and Deani Van Pelt, President of Edvance Christian Schools Association.

    However, if the tray is funded by the ministry of education, and a family decides to switch schools to an independent school, that tray may not go with the student to their new school Danielle Smith: A big part of the fight over education reform has to do with unions and also with regulations on sch...

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  • A Fresh Eye On Education

    In late March, parallel to the annual Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa, Convivium's parent think tank Cardus hosted a panel discussion on educational innovation. Alberta journalist Danielle Smith spoke with Ray Pennings, executive vice president of Cardus, and Deani Van Pelt, President of Edvance Christian Schools Association.

    I want to make the argument that when we think of reform in education at large, we need to include in our thinking the independent school sector So my answer to the question, Is education reform possible in Canada? would have these two caveats: Yes it is possible, first, if we’re willing to learn fr...

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  • We've Got to Talk

    Recently, Convivium has run columns rebutting accusations of discrimination against an independent Christian school in Surrey, B.C. Today, Cardus Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings unveils research showing religious schools are needed precisely because faithful North Americans have deep misgivings about government-run schools harming spiritual formation.  

    Respondents to the Barna survey didn’t specify which type of school they had in mind—still, given that the majority of the students in congregations are likely to be attending public schools, chances are many church leaders are referring to that sector This suggests that there’s a disconnect (or per...

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  • God's in His Heaven and All Right With A Joke

    Now is the ideal time for non-religious Canadians to lighten up around discussions of faith, says Cardus Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings, citing polling data showing religious Canadians are happy to debate their beliefs in good humour.

    A full 72 per cent of Canadians say it’s never acceptable to make fun of someone’s religious beliefs (while 74 per cent say the same for teasing someone’s lack of beliefs) That jumps to 75 per cent among non-religious Canadians but falls to just 37 per cent among those who actively follow a religiou...

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  • Getting Religious Freedom Right

    Cardus Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings says polling data done for the think tank by the Angus Reid Institute suggests many Canadians suffer amnesia about the centrality of religious freedom in the Charter of Rights.

    Only 31 per cent of the group hostile to public faith says religious freedom makes Canada better The same Angus Reid Institute survey used a series of measures to classify Canadians among three categories – those welcoming of faith in public life, those who are unsure, and those hostile to it ...

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  • Religious Diversity is Good Business

    Cardus Executive Vice President Ray Pennings says the Quebec government’s planned public service ban on symbols of faith is out of step with growing awareness about the positive presence of religion in the workplace.

    It’s also out of step with the growing awareness among the business community that religious diversity deserves respect in the workplace Even if it doesn’t, perhaps the business sector can show there is a better way to do things by respecting and making room for religious diversity in the workplace ...

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