Vive Le Canada

The power sharing experience in Canada
Date: Saturday, March 10 2007

The power sharing experience in Canada
March 10, 2007 at 6:21 pm · ~ Commentary

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

[] “In Canada, weather is a shared subject with the provincial government taking responsibility for the months of April to September and the federal government being responsible from October to March,” deadpanned Mathew Mendelhson as the small group of Sri Lankan journalists seated around the table laughed heartily. The quip was greatly appreciated as it came at a time when six scribes and their Canadian co-ordinator were reaching the end of a 10 day study tour in Canada.

The study tour had focused mainly on the power sharing experience between the central or federal government and the provincial or regional governments. Since Canadian weather is generally bright and sunny during spring/summer and bleakly cold in fall/ winter Mendelhson’s quip provided insight in lighter vein about the constant tussle between Ottawa and the provinces in the sphere of power sharing. Mendelhson, the deputy-minister of inter-governmental affairs in the provincial government of Ontario was making an informed presentation outlining various aspects of federal - provincial relations.

The Study tour was also a ’shared’ brainchild of the Canadian High Commission in Colombo and the Forum of Federations in Ottawa. The High Commission selected the participants and devised a broad agenda. The Forum planned the itinerary in detail and made all relevant arrangements. Five journalists, Victor Ivan (Ravaya), Sharmini Boyle (Young Asia TV), Jatila Wellabada (Lakbima), Anura Solomons (Divaina) and Ayesha Zuhair (Daily Mirror), flew into Canada from Sri Lanka. I joined them in Ottawa as the sixth participant. Irina Shmakova who is the programme officer for Asia/Pacific at the forum coordinated the project and accompanied us on the study tour.

An enigma

I was in a sense an enigma among the six. Technically I was living in Canada but writing for a Sri Lankan newspaper. So on this trip I was a Sri Lankan journalist and not a Canadian resident. Since I do baffle many by writing on Sri Lankan affairs for Sri Lankan newspapers from Canada this ‘duality’ was nothing new. Yet, I had to preface most of my self-introductions with the line “Actually I am living in Toronto and writing on Sri Lankan affairs for The Sunday Leader published in Colombo……..”.

This provided perennial amusement to my colleagues who struggled to keep a straight face as I kept parroting the “actually” line. The only reward was the look on many faces at this puzzling phenomenon.

Initially, I had been doubtful wondering whether I would feel out of place in the team as I had been away from the media scene in Colombo for nearly two decades. Going around with fellow Sri Lankan journalists on an extended tour like this was a fond yet distant memory. But the tour was pleasantly productive and all of us from the veteran Victor to the team’s ‘baby’ Ayesha interacted happily and well. Typical Lankan style jokes and wisecracks were galore with Irina saying “You guys are so funny and always laughing.”

This article comes from Vive Le Canada

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