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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. Read More ›

Bio last modified December 21st, 2017.
Articles by Ray Pennings
  • Remembering Dad

    Ray Pennings

    Jacob Hamstra died yesterday morning.  He was in his ninetieth year, with all but the past year enjoyed in good health. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  • Non-Partisan Politics

    Ray Pennings

    Of course it's a political stunt. It positions Trudeau as bold and decisive. The new proposal tabled during the first days of this sitting counters the narrative that Trudeau is all flash and has no ideas. It is designed to inoculate the Liberal brand against an upcoming and potentially damaging auditor's report on Senator spending.

  • Dignity of Work

    Ray Pennings

    My father was a construction labourer during my early youth, and I remember taking the scenic routes to a destination so that we could observe the progress being made on a construction project that he had contributed to. I remember welling with pride—my dad helped build that!—and though my father wasn't the talkative sort, I know he also felt a particular sense of accomplishment that wasn't measured by the hours of labour or the paycheque received.

  • Rediscovering Liberal Principle?

    Ray Pennings

    A few months back, I mused how Canadian politicos were muddling towards the middle, competing for the support of middle-class voters. Homo consumericus, Homo aspiratus, and Homo dependicus may share a suburban postal code and be indistinguishable on the socio-economic data charts, but attracting their political sympathies requires a more nuanced anthropology.

  • Advent Hope

    Ray Pennings

    The good news is, we stand on the shoulders of giants. There is much to be learned from the Christian social theorists who have gone before us. They’ve not been made irrelevant by technology or post-modernism, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I have learned more from dead people than living ones. My reading strategy aims for 1/3 works more than 100 years old that stand the test of time, 2/3 divided between topical and biographical works taking the broad view of history.

  • Jumping out of the Private-Public Box

    Ray Pennings

    In a recent column, Andrew Coyne made the case that MP Michael Chong’s recent bill in Canadian federal parliament appropriately seeks to regulate the internal affairs of a political party. And I grant Coyne's point: political parties are by definition political, and therefore the appropriate object of legislation governing political matters.

  • Rob Ford, the Media, and the Three Cs

    Ray Pennings

    Using my criteria, there is some evidence that Mayor Ford is a competent leader. However, the evidence is overwhelming that his character is wanting and his anti-institutional populism has never been my cup of tea. It seems clear that Mayor Ford should have resigned some time ago. His private-life behaviours morally disqualify him from earning the present respect of the citizenry and hence, will ultimately make him ineffective as a mayor. If he still believes political leadership remains an act of service, not an entitlement, then the right thing to do in the present cloud is to resign for the greater good.

  • Caricatures and Blame Games

    Ray Pennings

    It's easy to say that community groups are more effective than government in delivering services to help our poor neighbours. But this can't mean that politicians can ignore the plight of the poor. And, indeed, I've just returned from a discussion in Washington where examples were plentiful of local initiatives making real differences.

  • Muddled in the Middle

    Ray Pennings

    But there is a behind-the-scenes question all parties are trying to answer, the results of which may in large part decide how the 2015 election unfolds. It would appear that all parties are positioning themselves for a campaign that will focus on the pocketbook concerns of "middle class voters." . .

  • Does Successful Leadership Require Distasteful Characteristics?

    Ray Pennings

    The current controversy around Canadian Senator expenses is well-known to Canadian politicos and irrelevant to those who don't follow these matters, so I will not go into it. Suffice it to say that certain persons in the governing party, appointed by and previously known for their loyalty to the Prime Minister, are proving to become political liabilities for the Prime Minister—and Mr. Harper's reaction is what I will study today.

  • Diminishing Religion

    Ray Pennings

    In presenting their initial cases, there was a surface amount of overlap between the two arguments. Both speakers (there were others on the panel, too, but I will narrow my summary) agreed that civic literacy required that students have an awareness of the various religions they will encounter in a multicultural society.

  • Too Soon to Tell?

    Ray Pennings

    I recalled this quote last Friday while listening to Dr. David Bebbington, the renowned University of Stirling historian. He was demonstrating how the role of religion in history is frequently miscast. Through a historical survey (grossly reduced here), he outlined how the seventeenth century is often defined by politics, the eighteenth by philosophy, the nineteenth by social reform, and the twentieth (in Britain, focusing especially on Ireland) by religious wars. Bebbington convincingly provided evidence that historians have either ignored or skewered data regarding the contribution of religious motivations and how an appreciation for the role of religion changes our take on this history.

  • Mixing Journalism and Politics

    Ray Pennings

    It's not that it can't be done successfully. Some have—René Lévesque was a prominent journalist before making his mark as Quebec Premier. So was Ralph Klein in Alberta. Disagree with their politics if you will, but you can't dismiss their political achievements. Some have failed: Garth Turner, Michael Ignatieff, and Mike Duffy are ready examples that political success is hardly automatic.

  • Talking Hell in Public

    Ray Pennings

    I would be surprised if the social media commentators thought through the literal or theological implications of their hell references. They were simply using a cultural shorthand metaphor to communicate disgust at the indescribable crimes Castro committed. I share that disgust. However, the repeated reference to hell was jolting and made me wonder when, if at all, is it appropriate to talk about hell in public.

  • Power and Common Good: Squaring the Smiths

    Ray Pennings

    Over on the Slow Church blog, Christopher Smith objects to Jamie's arguments (admitting his Anabaptist political theology predisposes him not to vote) by describing how active civil society engagement can accomplish great things and that the slow, local approach that Jamie critiques as inadequate may, with God's blessing, achieve great things while avoiding the culture war narrative, with its inherent temptations and dangers.

  • Loyola's Freedom of Religion

    Ray Pennings

    Canada's Supreme Court will hear a case next spring that will greatly impact the future choices available to parents in the education of their children. Things got a bit complicated in Quebec in 2008, however, when the government passed a requirement that all schools (including private schools and home schools) teach a new program called "Ethics and Religious Culture." The ERC purpose is straightforward: "The new program, which reflects the preference of the majority of Quebeckers, will make it possible to offer the same education to all Québec students while respecting the freedom of conscience and religion of parents, students and teachers." .

  • Oldest Human Institutions

    Ray Pennings

    That said, it must be acknowledged that the news coverage of the Royal Baby has seemed absurd. Writing this, I am sitting in a hotel lounge in St. Paul's, Minnesota and the lobby television has for the last hour had its cameras focused on a closed hospital door. Isn't this the USA? Aren't these the folks who threw their tea in the ocean to rebel against the taxes demanded by the British throne? Don't they still celebrate their Independence each year? There's no one around so I take the remote and skim through the channels—there are no less than three American networks providing live coverage.

  • No Class

    Ray Pennings

    Some think these changes will significantly transform our politics. Justin Trudeau won the Liberal leadership this spring promising a new deal for the middle class. The thinking is that success for Trudeau is dependent on renewing a sense of hope and optimism regarding Canadian prospects. The NDP under Thomas Mulcair, on the other hand, with their historic affiliations to the union movement stand to benefit from increased numbers thinking of themselves as working class or poor.

  • True Patriot Love

    Ray Pennings

    On this fourth of July, our American friends are celebrating 237 years of their founding fathers declaration of independence from the "tyranny of repeated injuries and usurptions" that King George III had imposed on the colonies, declaring that "they are also absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown." As a loyal subject of Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, (we share her with 15 other countries including Great Britian), I suppose the red, white, and blue bunting that decorates the parades, fireworks, and concerts south of the 49th today should provoke resentment but this isn't the case.

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