On behalf the Institute, I would like to welcome everyone to the 5th annual Couchiching Gala and thank you for supporting the Institute.
I would especially like to thank our sponsors who support the important work of the Institute and our fabulous and dynamic table hosts for giving so generously of your time, your ideas, and, of course, your conversational skills.
I want to recognize the Institute’s many Board members who are either here tonight or who purchased a ticket to enable a young professional or student to attend.
I would also like congratulate Dr. Anne Golden as the recipient of this year’s Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership. The award is one of Canada’s most prestigious and recognizes Canadians who have demonstrated bold leadership to formulate and implement policy that has had a positive impact on Canada or a community within Canada. I am sure we all agree that Dr. Golden has not only met, but in fact, has vastly exceeded those criteria!
The award has a long and proud list of recipients, including the likes of William G, (Bill) Davis, Lincoln Alexander, Elizabeth May, and Phil Fontaine – the full list of the past recipients is on the card on your table.
I know you are all eager to get to the exciting dinner conversation your table hosts have promised to engage you in, but before I let you get to that, I think it incumbent upon me to tell you a little about the Institute – what we do and why your support is so important.
As many of you know, each summer we hold the annual Summer Conference at - where else - Lake Couchiching, just outside of Orillia, about 90 minutes north of Toronto, where Canadians from all walks of life debate and engage on, over the course of the weekend, the important public policy issues of the day.
I note that a key part of the Summer Conference is the students and young professionals we bring to the lake on scholarships and who are such a rich part of the discussions.
We also hold free, smaller events across Canada. These Couchiching Conversations are critical discussions on important public issues of the day.
And of course we host our annual Gala and ceremony for the Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership.
The common thread across these events is bringing together a diverse range of people and perspectives to engage with one another on important public policy issues.
This is particularly true at the Summer Conference, where our speakers (who almost always stay for the entire event) and participants interact with each other throughout the weekend, during sessions, over meals, and often late into the night by the campfire.
We do this because we believe that that kind of dialogue – that kind of engagement - is both fundamentally Canadian and fundamental to democracy in Canada.
Of course, I am not saying that democracy in Canada hangs on the Couchiching Institute. But we do believe that in a world of instant communication, where public debate takes place through 140 characters, it is more important than ever that we create space for the kind of dialogue and inclusive engagement at which Couchiching!
Your support this evening enables us to keep these events accessible and supports our scholarships recipients, students, and young professionals in particular.
That said, I do hope you will all be tweeting about what a great evening you are enjoying tonight!
Finally, on your tables you will find the brochure for this year’s Summer Conference: The Canada Project – Identity, Citizenship, and Nationhood in a Changing World. The conference examines what it means to be Canadian on the eve of the sesquicentennial of this great country.
Over the past few years we have had many debates in Canada about our values – what it means to be Canadian, including during last year’s election campaign. But it is difficult in the complex and pressured environment that is an election to pull apart such a complex set of issues. Nonetheless, as a country, we did begin that conversation – I hope you will join us at the 2016 Summer Conference to continue it.
2016 Summer Conference
The Canada Project
Identity, Citizenship, and Nationhood in a Changing World
August 5-7, 2016
The YMCA Geneva Park Conference Centre, Orillia, ON