Emerging democracy conference in Toronto this weekend

Image: Flickr/premierphotos

Former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne will take the stage this Saturday morning at the DemocracyXChange conference in Toronto, an event that is billed as “the annual summit for Canada’s emerging democracy sector to connect, learn and share.”

This is the second edition of the conference, which was launched in 2017. It runs from January 25 to 27.

Wynne, who is now simply the member of the provincial parliament for the Toronto riding of Don Valley West, is participating in a panel titled ‘Women, Power and Intersectionality.’ The panel will focus on intersecting identities, from political to personal, and is emblematic of the intersectionality and dialogue-fostering approach implicitly woven throughout the conference.

Wynne’s co-panelists are Bhutila Karpoche, the newly elected NDP MPP for the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park; motivational speaker and founder of Blind Girls Inc. Michelle Woolfrey; Indigenous leader and advocate Kyla Kakfwi Scott, who also is the daughter of former Truth and Reconciliation Commission member Marie Wilson and former Northwest Territories premier Stephen Kakfwi; and Denise Siele, a Conservative candidate for the October 2019 general federal election and immediate past president of the Canadian Club of Ottawa.

“We tried to bring in women of power who come from different political orientations but also who are well-known to inhabit multiple identities,” said conference co-director Ana Serrano in an interview with rabble.ca.

Serrano went on to explain that in some instances, like in the case of Woolfrey, who’s still a graduate student, the participant may not have power yet but has the ambition to run for public office.

“We just want to create the conditions whereby these people that we’ve invited feel comfortable and generously give over their authentic selves on the stage ... (to) make sure that we craft an event that has that kind of integrity built into it so that people feel like they are going to be heard and that we’re actually interested in listening to them.”

Serrano -- who also is co-chair of the Open Democracy Project and chief digital officer of the Canadian Film Centre -- is very familiar with at least one of the panelists: she and Wynne took part in a fireside chat at an Ontario Liberal Party event in January 2018.

In addition, Seranno’s conference co-director and Open Democracy Project co-chair, Chris Cowperthwaite, is Wynne’s son.

Cowperthwaite is an associate principal at Navigator, a national public relations firm, and vice-president of TRUE, Navigator's in-house digital and creative public affairs firm.

Navigator is a platinum-level sponsor of the conference.

In an interview, Cowperthwaite talked about the need for an exchange of ideas, and how the conference attempts to open a dialogue involving emerging trends in democratic movements.

“We feel like we’re at a place now where we’re kind of riding a wave because there is something globally happening. There’s a lot of concerning indicators, but also, there’s a lot to look at in terms of hopefulness if we can bridge some of the divides.”

The conference, he said, looks at some of these issues.

The conference is being held at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.

The event will have several panels and also keynote addresses. There also will be workshops on topics such as smart cities and ranked ballots. The event will wrap on Sunday afternoon with a tools exchange in which conference participants can pitch ideas to each other.

Image: Flickr/premierphotos

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