Henry Milner: An Unconventional Life in Politics and Academia

2022 12 Apr
7:00pm - 8:00pm

On Tuesday April 12, celebrate the Ottawa launch of Henry Milner's political memoir, Participant/Observer: An Unconventional Life in Politics and Academia, featuring Milner in conversation with Andrew Sharpe.

In Participant/Observer, Henry Milner shares his experiences as a student and community activist, an anglophone insider and strategist in the Parti Québécois, and a close observer over several decades of social democracy in practice in Scandinavia and beyond.

He was a founding member of the party that brought local democracy back to Montreal after the Drapeau era in the 1980s. In the decades that followed as a visiting professor in Sweden, he was close to events, and several key figures behind them, that brought significant change at home and abroad making Sweden “the model.”

Participant/Observer is a political autobiography of a generation, one that reached maturity in the 1960s and 1970s, told through one person’s story. In concluding, Milner holds out hope that this account of his generations’ successes—and failures—can be of use to current generations as they face the threat posed by populist and authoritarian forces, most dramatically to the capacity of contemporary democracies to meet the challenge of climate change.

"One of Canada's leading public intellectuals, Henry Milner recounts his life as a committed thinker and activist. He is a practical idealist in the best sense."
- Derek Shearer, Chevalier Professor of Diplomacy, Occidental College, and former US ambassador to Finland

"Henry Milner’s intellectual contributions over 3 generations have been and still are relevant, expert and experienced."
- Pierre Marc Johnson Former Premier of Québec

"This is an important work. Reading Milner’s memoir offers a rare first-hand glimpse into language, education and democratic reforms that continue play out on the front pages to this day."
- Tom Mulcair, radio commentator and former leader of the New Democratic Party


Aussi disponible sera la version francaise du livre: Observateur engagé : Une vie universitaire et politique non-conventionnelle

« Ce livre présente les souvenirs d’un Québécois d’adoption né cinq ans avant le milieu du siècle dernier. Son parcours fait voyager les lecteurs à travers trois générations d’idéaux. Il offre à grands traits un aperçu des débats sur la langue, l’éducation et les réformes démocratiques. Encore à ce jour, ce sont de grands débats de société. Son parcours peut être décliné d’abord par celui d’un participant de la nouvelle gauche nord-américaine de la fin des années 1960 à la mise en œuvre des aspirations dans la politique municipale au cours des années 1970 à Montréal. Puis, dans les années 1980, sa participation à la réforme de notre système d’éducation et aux délibérations lors de son passage au Conseil exécutif du Parti québécois, et responsable des relations internationales pour le PQ, lorsqu’il était au pouvoir.

Ensuite, Henry Milner amène le lecteur dans les États-providence scandinaves et d’Europe du Nord, il a alors une perspective proche des décideurs, surtout de la Suède quand le « modèle » attirait beaucoup d’intérêt, ici comme ailleurs. Finalement, toujours observateur, il voulait mettre à profit son expérience en contribuant à la réforme de nos institutions politiques. »


HENRY MILNER was professor of political science at Vanier College and is currently Research Fellow at the Chair in Electoral Studies in the Department of Political Science at l’Université de Montréal. He has been a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, the Chair in Canadian Studies at the Sorbonne, the Canada-U.S. Fulbright Chair at SUNY in Plattsburgh, at the Institute for Research in Public Policy in Montreal and a visiting professor or researcher at Queen’s, Carleton, Victoria and Western, as well as at universities in Finland, France, Australia and New Zealand. He is the co-founder of Inroads, the Canadian Journal of Opinion. Participant/Observer is Milner’s eleventh book.

ANDREW SHARPE is founder and Executive Director of the Ottawa-based Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS). He has held a variety of earlier positions, including Head of Research at the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre and Chief, Business Sector Analysis at Finance Canada. He is also founder and Editor of the International Productivity Monitor, co-developer (with Lars Osberg) of the composite Index of Economic Well-being, a consultant to the World Bank on labor market issues, and Executive Director of the International Association for Research on Income and Wealth (IARIW), an international research association dedicated to the advancement of knowledge relating to income and wealth.