Democracy in the News

The Democratic Imagination

"US begins government shutdown as budget deadline passes."

BBC News, 1 October 2013

The US government shutdown of October 2013 raises important questions about the role of representation in democracy and who representatives are accountable to. How might tensions between “delegate” and “trustee” models of representation (discussed in Chapter 4 of The Democratic Imagination) play out in debates about the government shutdown? Read full story »

"Silencing Scientists."

Verlyn Klinkenborg in The New York Times, 21 September 2013

This New York Times editorial strongly criticizes the prime minister of Canada for restricting his government scientists’ ability to publicize research. Read the editorial and try to come up with three democratic issues it raises. Read full story »

"Charter of Quebec values would ban religious symbols for public workers."

CBC news, 10 September 2013

The government of Quebec has proposed legislation that would ban public officials from wearing “overt” religious symbols at work. The minister responsible for the charter says, “If the state is neutral, those working for the state should be equally neutral in their image.” How might you argue against the charter while also drawing on the principle of equality? Are religion and democracy incompatible? Read full story »

"Campus police deny asking protester to leave."

The London Free Press, 8 September 2013

A group of student protesters at Western University were forced to stop leafleting at an Orientation Week event. What are the best arguments for and against the campus authorities’ decision to stop the protest? Is it ever OK to protest on campus? Should there be limits? Why? Read full story »

"Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne must practise saying no."

The Globe and Mail editorial, 27 January 2013

Advice from The Globe and Mail to Ontario's new premier. What do you think about the suggestion that the core job of the province's head of government should be to say "no" to new spending on social programs? How does this advice fit with principles of democracy? Read full story »

"Global Unemployment To Hit Record High In 2013: ILO."

International Business Times, 22 January 2013

An article summarizing a new report released by the United Nations labour agency. The report suggests that even as business profits grow, the job market is expected to remain bleak for millions of people, especially young people. How does your own experience relate to the trends discussed in the report? How can issues of unemployment be addressed democratically? Note: you can link to the full report from the article. Read full story »

"Idle No More: What do we want and where are we headed?"

Pam Palmater in, 4 January 2013

A statement from a leading #IdleNoMore activist about the movement’s vision and tactics. Palmater offers a strong critique of official democracy in Canada, and describes the emergence of a new movement for democracy from below. This raises important questions about democracy and inclusion. How do ideas of democracy fit with Indigenous rights that predate the formation of Canada? What measures might ensure that a "democratic" majority does not override the sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples or minority rights for other groups? Read full story »

"Canadians less content with way democracy works, poll says."

CBC news, 3 December 2012

Results of a recent survey show a drastic drop in people’s satisfaction with democracy in Canada. How might we explain why people’s attitudes have changed so much in the past decade? Should we be concerned about this trend? Read full story »

"McGuinty should reverse prorogation action."

The Globe and Mail editorial, 17 October 2012

Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario, resigned in mid-October. At the same time, he also suspended the Legislative Assembly of Ontario until a new leader of the Liberal Party could be chosen. This will take months. Many question why McGuinty would halt the work of the core institution of official democracy to make way for a political party's leadership race. The Globe and Mail argues in this editorial that the premier has abused his power and prorogation (or the suspension of the legislature) should not be used in these sorts of circumstances. Read full story »

"Systemic sexism and the death of Amanda Todd."

Jarrah Hodge in, 14 October 2012

Hodge argues against the terminology of "bullying" in order to focus more specifically on the broad culture of sexism and other forms of inequality, which provide the social context in which violence emerges. Read full story »

"States deny millions of ex-felons voting rights."

Trymaine Lee in The Huffington Post, 8 October 2012

Should prisoners be allowed to vote? What about people who have served their sentence and are attempting to find their way back into society? Whose interests are served by the increasing push in some US states to ban ex-felons from voting in elections? Read full story »

"Madrid on the brink."

Brandon Jourdan's short film about anti-austerity struggles in Spain, 25-29 September 2012

This powerful 8-minute film shows struggles over the future of democracy in Spain. It provides an excellent example of tensions between the institutions of "official democracy" and movements for "democracy from below." The film raises questions about what people ought to expect from their governments and whether the austerity agenda is compatible with an active democratic imagination. Watch the video »

"Harper rewrites the rules of democracy."

Carol Goar in The Toronto Star, 25 September 2012

A member of the Star's editorial board argues that the Conservative government's increasing use of omnibus legislation "violate[s] a fundamental tenet of democracy." She raises questions about what would need to happen in order to reverse this trend. Do you agree that the most effective strategy for change is a letter-writing campaign to Conservative MPs? What other forms of resistance might be worth considering? Read full story »

"The nun who broke into the nuclear sanctum."

William J. Broad in The New York Times, 10 August 2012

The story of the 82-year-old Roman Catholic nun and anti-nuclear activist who "carried out what nuclear experts call the biggest security breach in the history of the [United States] atomic complex." Sister Megan Rice and two accomplices broke into the heavily-guarded Oak Ridge nuclear reservation in Tennessee and splashed blood throughout the facility. Sister Rice and her accomplices claim that their actions are attacks on "the criminality of this 70-year industry," and carried out in the name of the people. In her words, the US government "spend[s] more on nuclear arms than on the departments of education, health, transportation, disaster relief and a number of other government agencies that I can't remember." US prosecutors have called Rice's actions "a matter of national security" and vow to press charges. Where do you come down with respect to these contrasting positions? Does the age and life work of the activist in this case make the situation different than ones involving younger activists who are in less respected social positions? Read full story »

"Harper says science, not politics, will decide Northern Gateway fate."

Financial Post, 7 August 2012

A news report on the Canadian government's approach to environmental decision making that focuses on the distinction Prime Minister Harper has drawn between science and politics. Are these two spheres so easily distinguished? If the Conservatives trust scientific decision-making more than political processes, why are they cutting jobs at Environment Canada, Statistics Canada, and other organizations that do scientific research? Read full story »

"Poor land in jail as companies add huge fees for probation."

Ethan Bronner in The New York Times, 2 July 2012

A news report describing the growing trend in the United States of people being jailed because of being unable to pay a fine. How does this trend fit with your conception of democracy? The story also notes the growing role of for-profit businesses in the administration of fines and disciplinary action. What tensions does the story suggest arise in the relationship between profit-seeking companies and the pursuit of justice within democracies? Read full story »

"Quebec's impasse is a test of leadership."

The Globe and Mail editorial, 23 May 2012

An argument that the Quebec student strike amounts to the threat of "mob rule," not a demonstration of legitimate popular power. What's the difference between mob rule and democracy? How could a critic argue against the Globe's position? Read full story »

"2012 vs. 1984: Young adults really do have it harder today."

Rob Carrick in The Globe and Mail, 7 May 2012

An economist's description of the bleak job market prospects for today's students and young people. In what ways might you argue that the situation Carrick describes is a democratic issue? Read full story »

"The alarming decline in voter turnout."

John Ibbitson in The Globe and Mail, 14 October 2011

Columnist John Ibbitson examines the Canada-wide trend of falling voter turnout. Why do you think fewer and fewer people are voting? And does a drop in the voter turnout necessarily mean the weakening of democracy? Read full story »

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