John Lornic & Vaclav Smil among 5 finalists for $60K prize for Canadian public policy writing

Books by John Lorinc, Kim Stanton and Vaclav Smil are on the list. The $60,000 prize, founded in 2021, recognizes nonfiction that contributes to Canadian policy.

The Balsillie Prize for Public Policy recognizes nonfiction that contributes to Canadian policy.

Vaclav Smil and John Lorinc are two of the five finalists for the 2022 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy. (Submitted by Writers' Trust of Canada )

Toronto journalist John Lorinc and Czech-Canadian scientist and policy analyst Vaclav Smil are two of the finalists for the 2022 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy. 

The $60,000 award, which was established in 2021, honours nonfiction that contributes to Canadian policy.

Lorinc is a finalist for Dream States, while Smil is a finalist for How the World Really Work

The other finalists are Jean Marmoreo and Johanna Schneller for their book The Last Doctor, Kent Roach for his work Canadian Policing, and Kim Stanton for her book Reconciling Truths

This year's shortlisted books explore smart cities, Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), Canadian policing, investigations into global technology, and public inquiries in an era of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. 

The five finalists were selected by the jury from 53 titles submitted by 31 publishing imprints. The jury is composed of author and physician Samantha Nutt, policy expert Taki Sarantakis and digital strategist Scott Young. 

The winner will be announced at a private dinner hosted at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto on Nov. 29, 2022. 

Each of the remaining finalists will receive $5,000.

The prize is funded by businessman and philanthropist Jim Balsillie, as part of his $3 million donation to Writers' Trust to support Canadian literature. It's the largest award of its kind for Canadian public policy titles.

He also funded the $60,000 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, renamed in 2021 after Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, two of the founders of Writers' Trust of Canada.

The Writers' Trust of Canada is an organization that supports Canadian writers through literary awards, fellowships, financial grants, mentorships and more. 

It also gives out seven prizes in recognition of the year's best in fiction, nonfiction and short story, as well as mid-career and lifetime achievement awards. The finalists for the Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize were announced on Sept. 14. The shortlist for the 2022 Hilary Weston Writers' Prize for Nonfiction was revealed on Sept. 21. 

The annual prize was established last year in 2021. The inaugural winner was Innovation in Real Places by Dan Breznit. 

LISTEN | Dan Breznit discusses innovation on Ideas:

University of Toronto Professor Dan Breznitz says Canada has an innovation problem, and it’s time we did something about it. In 2021 Breznitz won the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s inaugural Balsillie Prize for Public Policy for his book, Innovation in Real Places. In this episode, Nahalah Ayed speaks with Breznitz and the three other finalists for the prize. *This episode originally aired on March 10, 2022.

Get to know the five finalists for the 2022 Balsillie Prize for Public Policy below.

How the World Really Works by Vaclav Smil 


How the World Really Works is a nonfiction work that looks at the lasting impact of modern science and technology. This book is a researched "reality check" as it uses data to explain seven of the most fundamental realities governing our survival and prosperity — including our dependency on fossil fuels and the legacy of globalization.

Vaclav Smil is a Canadian author and academic. He is the author of over 40 books with topics including energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment and public policy. 

Dream States by John Lorinc

John Lorinc (r) is wearing rectangular-framed glasses, has short hair and a bit of stubble and is wearing a army-green sweater. To your left is the cover of his book, Dream States.
Dream States is a book by John Lorinc. (Coach House )

In the nonfiction book Dream States, John Lorinc explores the future of urban planning and smart cities. As the tech industry that supplies smart-city software and hardware is now worth hundreds of billions a year, Lorinc raises important questions about surveillance, automation and public participation. Dream States reflects on the larger narrative around smart cities — one that is often defined by utopian ideologies and technological fantasy.

Lorinc is a journalist and editor from Toronto. He reports on urban affairs, politics, business and technology. His writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, The Walrus, Maclean's and Spacing, where he is senior editor. 

The Last Doctor by Jean Marmoreo and Johanna Schneller

The Last Doctor is a book by Jena Marmoreo and Johanna Schneller. (Penguin Canada, Johanna Schneller)

The Last Doctor explores Medical Assistance in Dying through the eyes of a doctor, Dr. Jean Marmoreo, and her patients over the course of a year as she trains herself in the new field following the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2016. The book tackles difficult questions and emotions through a range of end-of-life situations Marmoreo comes up against. 

Jean Marmoreo is a doctor, writer, athlete, and adventurer. She is a specialist in end-of-life medicine and was one of the first doctors in Canada to provide MAiD — Medical Assistance in Dying — when it became legal in 2016. Marmoreo was a regular columnist for The Globe and Mail and The National Post.

Johanna Schneller is a journalist and has been published in a variety of publications, including Vanity Fair and InStyle. Schneller co-wrote the bestselling book Uncontrollable with Mark Towhey and Woman Enough with Kristen Worley.

Jean Marmoreo

10 years ago
Duration 2:13
A Toronto doctor has been the fastest in her age group at the Boston Marathon 2 years in a row.

Canadian Policing by Kent Roach

The book cover is a photograph of three police officers standing side-by-side in riot gear consisting of helmets with face shields, and neon yellow jackets with black uniforms underneath.
Canadian Policing is a book by Kent Roach. (Submitted by Writers' Trust of Canada, Irwin Law )

Canadian Policing is an in-depth look into Canadian policing from its roots in colonialism to the police response to the February 2022 blockades and occupations. Kent Roach examines — among other issues — police shootings, instances of overpolicing and the cost of police services to form a range of arguments and concrete proposals for how Canadian policing can move forward. Some of his proposals include reforming the RCMP, emphasizing the role of Indigenous police services and where to allocate funding to achieve greater service efficacy and cost-efficiency. 

Kent Roach is a University of Toronto law professor and a former law clerk to Justice Bertha Wilson of the Supreme Court of Canada. He is the author of 16 books and has been editor-in-chief of the Criminal Law Quarterly since 1998. In 2015, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.

Reconciling Truths by Kim Stanton

A middle-aged white with brunette shoulder-length hair smiles to camera while wearing a navy-blue top underneath a black blazer.
Reconciling Truths is a book by Kim Stanton. (Submitted by Writers' Trust of Canada, UBC Press)

Reconciling Truths examines the intentions and outcomes of commissions in Canada such as Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, focusing on their potential and limitations as it pertains to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Stanton analyzes key aspects of these commissions, including their leadership and approaches, as case studies to show readers how commissions can be effective and where they go wrong. In this way, the prolific lawyer provides concrete guidance on how commissions can be improved, thereby creating a path for policymakers to increase the odds that recommendations turn into action. 

Kim Stanton is a lawyer, a former legal director of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, and a senior fellow of Massey College at the University of Toronto. Her legal practice in British Columbia and Ontario has focused on constitutional and Aboriginal law.

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