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Author Margaret Atwood meets with members of The Globe and Mail's editorial board to talk about culture and upcoming federal election. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Author Margaret Atwood meets with members of The Globe and Mail's editorial board to talk about culture and upcoming federal election. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

At the editorial board

Margaret Atwood, uncensored Add to ...

Mr. Owen: She should have used your long-distance pen though.

Ms. Atwood: It doesn't matter. My long-distance pen is still your writing. We don't actually know whose writing that is because nobody has ever said. I will give you two guesses as to why she was not fired. Because she knows who ordered her to do it. Who might that have been?

They also got the wrong Kairos of the organization that all of this was about it - they got the wrong one.

And therefore ended up accusing the United Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Mennonites, the Catholic Church, there's a whole list, of being supporters of terrorist organizations.

Mr. Geiger: Wasn't Pierre Trudeau some of these things, though?

Ms. Atwood: Yes, but we're not electing Pierre Trudeau! He'd dead. I hate to tell you. You haven't read my comics. Yeah, we had big fights at the time. Fight, fight, fight.

Mr. Geiger: You know, the secrecy, the lack of accountability, the one-man rule. A very strong leadership, a cult of leadership.

Ms. Atwood: Yeah. It probably actually started with Duplessis. Or we could look at strong one-man rules throughout history. It's much the same stuff. It's not a new pattern. When somebody gets the chance and they have those inclinations, they go for it.

Julie Traves, Deputy Arts Editor: What's the alternative?

Ms. Atwood: Right now? That's why we're all tearing out our hair. But I think the alternative at the moment is a minority government. Which has to be forced to act like a minority government. That is, take into consideration the voters who have elected all these different people.

Because the government of Canada is not the PMO's office. Government of Canada is Parliament. And I would have to think really quite a lot - twice -about giving a vote to an outfit that doesn't actually value votes. That doesn't value Parliament and that means it doesn't value all of the people who've gone to the trouble of voting.

So if we want to do away with voting - I mean, we're all being told "Oh, horrors, another election is the worst possible thing that could happen to us." In fact, another election is probably the best possible thing that could happen to us because it shows that we're still a democracy. It's the moment at which you don't have any election for years and years and years and years and years that you really have to worry.

Because then you never get a chance to correct the balance. Ever. And it is a question of balance. It's going to go like this all the time. It's one party gets too much power and they start acting like that. Then you're going to be putting your weight on the other side to get it back to the place we want to be. Which is a society in which some kind of fairness is possible.

Mr. Bardeesy: So, for you, is this an issue of central importance in the same way that free trade was in 1988?

Ms. Atwood: Absolutely. Yeah. I've studied enough non-democracies. And been in enough. To know what they're like. And among other things, they completely stifle initiative. Because the only road to power is through this narrow little bottleneck. And the only road to accomplishment is the same way. You're essentially in a position in which you've got to starting paying people off one way or another, and that's a very bad place to be.

Mr. Fine: Still this isn't a police state. We have a Constitution...

Ms. Atwood: Oh, it depends on who's running the Constitution and interpreting the Constitution. And when you've done away with the human rights watchdog, you can have all the constitutions you want. There's a lot of dictatorships that have had just wonderful constitutions.

That's why democracy got to be such a weird word in the fifties because it was the Communists saying that they were these wonderful people of this terrific constitution. It's a question of his administering it. So, if you have a constitution and a justice system that's in the pocket of the government, your constitution isn't actually worth anything, because if you appeal under it, your case will be dismissed. As what, 200 cases were under this so-called human rights person.

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