MLI Munk Senior Fellow Alastair Gillespie is teaming up with prominent Canadians Preston Manning, Jean Charest, Paul Martin, Bob Rae and others to bring the vision of Canada’s founders to life

OTTAWA, Feb. 7, 2017 – The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday with the launch of a major project aimed at helping Canadians gain a new understanding of their country’s founding.

The Confederation Series takes a unique look at how five of our first-generation political leaders – George Brown, George-Étienne Cartier, Alexander Galt, Thomas D’Arcy McGee and John A. Macdonald – envisioned what it meant to be Canadian.

“The Confederation Series traces the contribution of these five political figures to the idea of Canada, through speeches spanning their political careers”, writes Alastair Gillespie, the founder of the Confederation Series.

“Our founders were not just pragmatists – they had principles and ideals”.

To read the paper launching the Confederation Series, click here.

An all-star line-up of influential Canadians will introduce each paper. This includes former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, former prime minister Paul Martin and former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae. The series will also benefit from the input of some of Canada’s top historians.

“Our country points the way to a better world. Its ideals are those of tomorrow, with the potential to revolutionize the human condition for the better.” -Alastair Gillespie and Brian Lee Crowley

The series will offer Canadians a fresh look at their history. It is the only extended examination of Canada’s story primarily through the speeches of its founders.

Released today is the Series Introduction, co-authored by Gillespie and Dr. Brian Lee Crowley, MLI’s Managing Director. Outlining key themes, the introduction also discusses Confederation and the future.

“Canadians are conscious that Canada is stronger than ever, and for reasons that resonate with our times,” they write. “Our country points the way to a better world. Its ideals are those of tomorrow, with the potential to revolutionize the human condition for the better.”

MLI will release five papers in total, each of which will bring to life a key figure in Canada’s founding, from now until Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1, 2017.

Also released today is the first major paper in the Confederation Series: George Brown: The Reformer. This chapter, authored by Gillespie with an introduction by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, offers a unique look at George Brown’s role in the birth of Confederation. The chapter traces Brown's 15-year campaign for constitutional change, the record of a spirited partisan who sacrificed his own career, and laid partisanship aside, to secure a new federal constitution for Canada.

To read the full paper, George Brown: The Reformer, click here.

The Brown paper will be followed (in order) by papers on Cartier, Galt, McGee and Macdonald.

The series seeks to lay out key themes that are vital to understanding Confederation:

  • Our founders faced a startlingly modern question – how to make a people of Canadians, regardless of national origin, language or religion;
  • Our founders expanded the frontiers of what a nation could be, imagining a political nationality that reached across these divides;
  • Federalism was the catalyst of Canadian unity – the structural adjustment that brought Canadians together;
  • Canada was born with free parliamentary institutions, rooted in popular sovereignty;
  • Confederation was a made-in-Canada achievement (even though the BNA Act was passed in London);
  • Constitutional reform requires long-term commitment, and cross-party consensus;
  • Canada is stronger than ever, and for reasons that resonate with our times.

To support the Confederation Series, MLI has established The Confederation Project, an online resource to publish and collect the speeches featured in the papers. Throughout the year, speeches and documents will be posted online, reintroducing Canadians to their heritage and give meaning to this significant national anniversary. Long-hidden in dusty archives, these materials can help bring Confederation to life.

This includes a speech by George Brown in the Confederation debates, with other speeches to be released in the coming weeks. For all the speeches, visit the Confederation Project page.

“The Confederation Series presents that characteristic Canadian heart, as expressed by representatives of the people, imagining what the Canadian people would be”, writes Gillespie.

“We believe Canada’s political tradition is ripe for restoration”.


Alastair Gillespie is an MLI Munk Senior Fellow and a capital markets lawyer in the London office of a large New York-based international law firm. Prior to his legal career, Alastair was Special Assistant to the Hon. A. Anne McLellan, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is the only non-partisan, independent national public policy think tank in Ottawa focusing on the full range of issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

For more information, please contact Mark Brownlee, communications manager, at 613-482-8327 x105 or email at


MLI would not exist without the support of its donors. Please consider making a small contribution today.

Donate Now Through!