Workshop, plenary talk examine dilemmas emerging from democracy

A workshop and plenary talk at York University will examine the dilemmas emerging from democracy, when the Department of Politics continues its series on Engaging Democracy on Feb. 27 at 674S Ross Building.

The event, “Dilemmas of Democracy” features a registration-only workshop from 10 to 11:30am, and a plentary talk (open to all) running 2:30 to 4:30pm featuring Mel Cappe, a former high commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom and professor in the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.

The workshop: Like seldom before, we see populism driving election results. We are seeing political “leaders” following their constituents. We are putting our faith in elections when money may distort results. Fake news undermines the credibility of legitimate news.  The media are no longer mediators of democratic processes, but rather actors in those processes. The institutions of democratic governance are under stress if not attack.  How do we ensure modern democracy yields democratic results?

The talk: Democracy is nothing to be afraid of and yet, with the emergence of the referenda we have seen some dilemmas emerge for the thought and practice of democracy. From Brexit to Catalunya, we have seen referenda become the vehicles that are supposed to give voice to people through a direct democratic vote.  At times, though this has not been the case. Cappe engages both the question of Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, and the practicalities of the referendum results and their implication for democracy. What are some practical truths of leaving the EU, for instance? Do referenda provide the democratic platform for engaging with practical questions? Do referenda allow for access to democratic rule? What happens when human and civil rights issues are put to a popular vote?

Cappe was the president of the Institute for Research on Public Policy from 2006 to 2011. Earlier in his career, he held senior economic and policy positions in the Departments of Finance and Industry and was deputy minister of various portfolios.

The Engaging Democracy series continues on March 12 with a roundtable discussion.