Table of contents

Introduction - Nelson Wiseman (University of Toronto)

Part I:   What Are Public Intellectuals For?

  1. The Public Intellectual and the Democratic Conversation - Janice Gross Stein (University of Toronto)
  2. The Public Intellectual and Politics: Why Choices Matter - Hugh Segal (Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism)
  3. 3. Public Thought and the Crisis of Underpopulation - Doug Saunders (Globe and Mail’s European Bureau Chief)
  4. What Are Intellectuals For? A Modest Proposal in Dialogue Form - Mark  Kingwell (University of Toronto)

Part II: Who Are They?

  1. Public Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Canada - Nelson Wiseman
  2. Le Devoir, Forum for the Exchange of Ideas - Gregory Baum (University of Toronto, McGill University)
  3. Quebec Public Intellectuals in Times of Crisis - Alain-G. Gagnon (Université du Québec à Montréal)
  4. Navigating Gendered Spaces:  Women as Public Intellectuals - Sylvia Bashevkin (University of Toronto)

Part III: On the Front Lines

  1. A Political Scientist in Public Affairs - Tom Flanagan (University of Calgary)
  2. Personal Success vs. Public Failure: The Muting of Canada's Academic Intellectuals - Stephen Clarkson (University of Toronto)
  3. Polling for Democracy - Michael Adams (Marketing Research and Intelligence Association)
  4. A People’s Intellectual - Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians, Blue Planet Project)
  5. Canadian Economists as Public Intellectuals - Pierre Fortin (Royal Society of Canada, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research)
  6. The Unbalanced Discussion of Aboriginal Policy - John Richards (Simon Fraser University)
  7. “Brave New Ethicists”: A Cautionary Tale - Margaret Somerville (McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law)

Conclusion - Nelson Wiseman (University of Toronto)



This illuminating, entertaining, and timely volume examines the place and impact of public intellectuals in our rapidly changing and diverse society. Boasting an all-star cast of contributors – including some of Canada’s most prominent writers, journalists, and academics – it probes the role of public discourse and intellectual persuasion in shaping Canada’s past, present, and future.

The Public Intellectual in Canada examines how individuals have come to assume this role, how they are received by various publics, and what they have been able to accomplish. The pieces cover topics ranging from the potential and perils of advocacy to the influence of think tanks on public policy. Many pieces also delve into the roles of pollsters, political actors, pundits, social activists, economists, and ethicists, among others.

Broad in scope and stylistically diverse, these essays offer a fascinating overview of the links between thought, public exposition, and action in the fields of politics, science, and culture.


‘Wiseman offers a surprising range of topics; his editorial efforts enhance the overlapping insights… Even when one disagrees or is annoyed, one is rarely disinterested. That is no small achievement for some 250 pages. ’

- Peter V. Krats