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Canada and the World, Ep. 25: Democracy? There’s an app for that

A new podcast series from and the Balsillie School of International Affairs.

By: /
25 January, 2019

From Venezuela to the United States to Egypt, this episode looks at divisive societies and what lessons they offer us for preserving democracy. Is the space for middle ground narrowing? Is the internet providing a forum for new voices but not yet harnessing their energy in a more positive, collaborative way? Ben Rowswell, Roy Norton and Pamela Simpson join host Bessma Momani to discuss what might not only safeguard democracy but promote a more robust and healthy electoral process, from funding and boundary rules to mobile applications that can encourage youth engagement and political cooperation.

Our host

Bessma Momani is professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and University of Waterloo and a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. She’s also a non-resident senior fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. and a Fulbright Scholar. She has been non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and a 2015 Fellow at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. She’s a frequent analyst and expert on international affairs in Canadian and global media.

This week’s guests

Ben Rowswell is the president and research director of the Canadian International Council. He earned his expertise in international security serving with the United Nations in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993, as Canada’s first diplomatic envoy to Baghdad, Iraq, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and as the head of the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar at the height of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. He also established the Democracy Unit of Global Affairs Canada, worked closely with human rights movements as a political officer in the Canadian Embassy to Egypt, and most recently as Canada’s Ambassador to Venezuela from 2014 to 2017.

Roy Norton is the newly appointed “Canada Public Servant-in-Residence” with the Balsillie School of International Affairs. He was previously chief of protocol of Canada, consul general in Chicago and Canada’s consul general in Detroit. From 2006-2010, Roy served as minister (congressional relations and public affairs) at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Pamela Simpson is an MA graduate in international relations from Queen’s University, where she focused her research on Canada’s socializing of democratic norms in international institutions. In 2015, she built and launched Politips, a mobile application that served as a non-partisan information app for the 2015 Canadian Federal election.

Canada and The World is produced and edited by Matthew Markudis. Each episode can be found on iTunes and other podcast applications.

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Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.

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