The Spur Questionnaire: Shawn McCarthy

Shawn McCarthy photographed by Brigitte Bouvier
Shawn McCarthy Brigitte Bouvier/Globe and Mail

Shawn McCarthy is the Globe and Mail‘s global energy reporter, and was the paper’s parliamentary bureau chief from 2000-03. He’ll be moderating our panel Can Money Buy Elections? this morning at Hart House.

Tell us about your participation in the 2015 Spur Festival.
I will be moderating a session with Anna Porter and Daniel Schulman on the role of money in elections. I’m looking forward to  wide-ranging discussions that, I hope, will generate light as well as heat.

What do you hope Spur Festival attendees will take away from your session?
I would hope attendees come away with a better understanding of the “money trail” in politics, but also an appreciation of how Canada and the U.S. differ. Much of the media we consume originates in the U.S., and it is important for Canadians to understand how the American experiences influences our own. But it’s equally important for Canadians to understand their own system and not to make assumptions based on the American picture.

What are you most looking forward to about the Spur Festival?
Other than my own, of course, I’m interested in the discussion on the role of religion in contemporary society. I think often there is a tendency to denigrate religion as divisive, anti-science and backward-looking. I think the story is far more complex than that, and personally know of many religious people who do much good in our world. While not an adherent myself, I see organized religion as a human institution that reflects all the good and bad in our makeup.

What is the one item you never leave home without?
I would say my wallet but I left it in my coat pocket in the hall closet today. That pretty much leaves my wedding ring as the one item I never leave home without.

Which book is currently on your nightstand?
The Sultan of Palermo, by Tariq Ali. Part of his Islam quintet, Ali’s setting is 1153 Sicily, where a Christian “Amir” rules a fallen Muslim state, amid a volatile mixture of ambitious bishops and resentful mullahs. The narrator, geographer al-Idrisi has little time for the superstitions of either side, but can’t escape his culture. Lack and Transcendence, by American Zen master David Loy.

In the last year, what is the longest you have gone ‘unplugged’? No internet, no cell phone, etc.
Not very long—a day or two while on holidays in U.S. and worrying about roaming charges, a few days while staying in Mont Tremblant national park. In the last two years, I went unplugged for a week or so while traveling in Italy, though I enjoyed finding wifi spots with my iPad to research restaurants, historical sites etc.   

Who was the last person you texted?
My 29-year-old daughter: “20 mins.” In answer to: “what’s you eta?” When I was picking her up to come for Sunday dinner.

The animated show The Jetsons was set in 2062. Is there anything from their futuristic world that wish were a current reality?
Not really, it was just 1962 consumer society with conveniences. Though occasionally when I have to drive home to Ottawa after a long road trip, I’d go for their speedy transportation.

How do you prefer to communicate with colleagues: by phone, email, text or in person? How do you prefer to communicate with friends?
In person, and in person. Phone, email and text are all wonderful tools for communication, and I use all forms regularly. I’m an avid Facebook user; it helps me keep in touch with far-flung family and friends. But for me, nothing surpasses a face to face conversation. We say a lot with our non-verbal expressions.

What do you love about Toronto?
Seeing my daughter who lives there. Soaking up its multicultural, big city vibe.  Having conversations with you all.


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