Lieutenant governor hopes to bring back intelligent discussion Elizabeth Dowdeswell meets with UW students to promote provincial competition

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Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell met with a collection of UW’s student leaders — including student senators, Feds executives, and presidents of student societies — on Nov. 25 to discuss the Lieutenant Governor’s Visionaries Prize competition. The competition will challenge all Ontarians over the age of 18 to present their ideas on some of the major issues that may be important to their communities, to Ontario, or even to all of Canada.

“There’s a chance for every lieutenant governor to shine a light on important issues that transcend politics and transcend time,” Dowdeswell said, “and it struck me that as we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday … it just seems to me too important a moment in time to not stop and think about what society we want to be years from now, because there certainly are all kinds of things that we’re facing, and so I wanted to find some way to have some intelligent dialogue and conversation around the province.”

To facilitate that discussion, the Lieutenant Governor’s Visionaries Prize is asking all of its participants to submit a short essay or video expanding on their ideas on any of the six selected topics. Finalists of each category will be brought to one of six different locations throughout Ontario to present their ideas in a public forum September 2017, and a collection of specialist judges and members of the audience will vote on their favourite finalists. Winners of each category will receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Visionaries Prize October 2017.

The six topics of discussion chosen are reconciliation, governance, environmental stewardship, social cohesion, inclusive prosperity, and scientific and technological innovation. The topics were selected after consultations with Ontarians.

“When I was invested, I didn’t choose a theme immediately to work on, I said I wanted to listen to Ontarians first of all, and see what resonated with them. And these six really come out of my conversations with Ontarians,” Dowdeswell said.

Dowdeswell emphasized that these topics can be applied on local, provincial, or federal levels, and encouraged participants to be creative with their ideas.

“We came up with the notion of the Visionaries Prize because we’re looking for people who will think creatively about some of the issues that we face, and we wanted to find a way to do it that was also fun, that might attract some thinkers,” Dowdeswell said. “The notion is that in six broad areas, we would ask people to think creatively about how we might deal with the issues that arise in those areas.”

Dowdeswell also emphasized the importance of developing intelligent dialogue between people:

“I actually think that we’ve forgotten how to talk to each other, we’ve become so polarized in our conversations that we need to have, we seem to forget that — whether it’s federal/provincial, whether it’s subject matters, whether it’s various sectors — we’ve lost ways of actually having a conversation, of learning together about an issue and then having an intelligent conversation about it. One of the things that I can do as lieutenant governor is convene people, and I hope to do a lot of that in 2017.”