Elizabeth May addresses need for better communication


Prime Minister Stephen Harper is dismantling the institutions of Canadian democracy, Elizabeth May said at a freelance writers’ award luncheon on Friday.

She spoke about the need for eloquent communication at this critical time to combat “language vandals” and sloganeering. She called for, “The skill of writing and civil discourse instead of attacking people,” by taking words and phrases out of context.

May is Canada’s first and only Green Party MP. Last year Macleans named her Parliamentarian of the Year based on an Ipsos Reid survey of all members. She addressed the Professional Writers Association of Canada during their annual conference at MagNet 2013 last week. The author of seven books said writing is her favourite activity.

She acknowledged that her original support for Senate reform has changed. Harper has loaded the Senate with young individuals who will support his policies for a long time rather than thinking for themselves, she said. Now she is calling for the Senate to be eliminated.

She asked thoughtful writers to voice their concerns. Here are some of her points:

  • “Being awash in statistics is not to be informed.”
  • “Narrative is the greatest way to communicate ideas.”
  • “Sensationalism will override information every time.”
  • “Humour is an important tool in any political struggle.”

She acknowledged that effective communication can miss the mark because people have short attention spans. However, she pointed out that not everyone needs to be convinced because a “critical mass” of just 15 to 20 per cent is required to change society.

She advocated some strategies to stimulate change:

  • Introduce ideas about climate change in conversations with friends.
  • Write 300-word letters to the editor.
  • Most parents have a level of anxiety that’s “pressed below the surface,” she said; for people who are apathetic, talking about their children can help.
  • Pay more attention to comment sections after online articles, where a few voices can have powerful impact.

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