With 23 years of experience as an MLA under his belt, Gordon Mackintosh – instructor for the University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) political science department – strives to supplement textbook teachings with his own practical advice.
“I adore teaching Canadian politics. It’s my niche, if you will,” he says. “There are so many lessons that I learned there and different personalities that I’ve met over the years, too.”
Initially, Mackintosh never imagined he would adopt a teacher role. That changed, however, when he was advised to pursue educating others.
“When I was in politics, former Manitoba Premier Howard Pawley encouraged me to, like he did, go back to university and teach,” Mackintosh says. “He once said to me that I was a teacher-type.”
Prior to taking his position at the U of W, Mackintosh spent many years in both Canadian law and politics. Notably, he served as minister of justice and attorney general, as well as a few other postings.
He always thought he would return to law someday. As time went on, however, he felt compelled to continue teaching his students from his own experience.
Mackintosh’s hope is for his students to learn from his mistakes and to understand the precarious nature of Canadian democracy.
“We’re not immune to hatred,” he says. “We’re not immune to populist tendencies that draw on the worst of what humankind can offer.”
For this reason, Mackintosh highlights the key role diversity plays in the growth of Canadian politics.
“We have a disgraceful political history of oppression, mostly against Indigenous people,” he says. “There’s so much work that we have to do, but we can’t get that work done successfully if we don’t understand the mess we made.”
What is something that you’ve learned from your students?
“During a lesson about the need to avoid using crutch words, especially in politics, I admitted to the class that I say ‘okay’ too often. A student took on the task of activating a cellphone buzzer every time I used that crutch word for five months. But I got better.”
What’s the best thing about your work?
“Having the opportunity to share my mistakes with students so they learn from them.”
From your past mistakes, what lessons did you learn that you now teach to your students?
“You gotta keep your eyes on the bigger picture. You don’t have to get jittery every time there’s some criticism or a media question that comes your way. I think it’s better for balance to keep a longer-term view.”
Published in Volume 75, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 24, 2021)