Episodes

  • In January, former New Democratic Party leader Ed Broadbent died at the age of 87. Outpourings of grief, respect, and gratitude followed throughout the country, culminating in a state funeral in Ottawa.

    Broadbent’s legacy is the product of decades of tireless work as an elected representative and as an ambassador for the left at home and abroad. His commitment to justice and equality is paralleled by few in Canada, and this episode is dedicated to understanding and celebrating his service to this country and to left movements worldwide.

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Luke Savage, columnist, co-host of the podcast Michael and Us, and co-author, with Ed Broadbent and others, of Seeking Social Democracy: Seven Decades in the Fight for Equality.

  • Everybody loves a quadrilogy. In March of 2020, host David Moscrop and guest Amanda Watson discussed how we were managing our lives during the early days of the pandemic. Twice more the two discussed the pandemic, anxiety, and managing life during what felt like the end times. Now, Watson is back for a fourth time, at the dawn of 2024, to ask “What does 2024 have in store for us?” [this was originally “What fresh hell is this?” in the spirit of humour, but I presume you prefer to not have that and so have adjusted. Though it made me laugh!

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks once more with Amanda Watson, feminist theorist, senior lecturer at Simon Fraser University and author of The Juggling Mother: Coming Undone in the Age of Anxiety. She joins the show this week from the south of France.

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  • Canada’s housing crisis continues with no end in sight. Shelter – a fundamental human need – is unaffordable for millions, and the surge in property value has created two classes, homeowners and non-homeowners. These two classes are often at odds, with competing interests. Those who wish to enter the market often prefer lower housing prices, while those who own stand to benefit from higher prices.

    Governments at every level have been slow to respond to the crisis and their actions have been insufficient to curb the problem. These governments often try to have it both ways, cheaper housing without costs to existing homeowners who wish to preserve their equity. At the same time, while many experts preach supply, which is essential in lowering prices, that may not be enough. Is there another way out of the housing conundrum? What if we change how we taxed property? Could a land value tax help solve the housing crisis?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Floyd Marinescu, an activist, entrepreneur, angel investor, and the head of Commonwealth Canada and UBI Works.

  • Artificial intelligence is already shaping the way we work, consume, and communicate with one another. It’s also shaping the way we govern ourselves – or, perhaps more accurately, the way we are governed.

    While we might imagine ways AI could shape better democratic processes, right now experts are worried about how such technologies can be used to manipulate, divide, suppress, and disinform people. With these concerns in mind, we ask: Is AI a threat to democracy?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Sam Jeffers, executive director of Who Targets Me, and Karim Bardeesy, executive director of The Dais at Toronto Metropolitan University.

  • Around the world, democracies are on the back foot. For years, experts, commentators, politicians, and other practitioners and observers have discussed a global democratic recession. Several countries are of interest as case studies in decline, but the United States stands out. As an established democracy and global hegemon, the retreat of American democracy – always flawed, but increasingly so of late – threatens the world, and particularly its continental neighbours, including Canada.

    While Canada cannot be fully independent in a globalized world, particularly as we share a border with the United States, we must consider ways of preserving, indeed expanding, our democracy. But that might be difficult if our largest trading and security partner falls apart. With that concern in mind, we ask: Can Canada protect itself from American democratic decline?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Rob Goodman, assistant professor of politics and public administration at Toronto Metropolitan University and author of the new book Not Here: Why American Democracy is Eroding and How Canada Can Protect Itself.

  • Foreign policy might not win elections, but it shapes domestic politics – and the world. Recent months have seen external affairs intersect with internal affairs, hitting the headlines and shaping the country’s agenda. Foreign electoral interference has been top of mind for quite some time. India’s alleged assassination of a Canadian on Canadian soil grabbed even more attention. Then, during an address from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the House of Commons welcomed and celebrated a Second World War veteran who fought for a Nazi SS division in Ukraine.

    Unmoored, unmade, underspecified, underfunded. There’s lots of ways to describe this country’s approach to managing relations with the rest of the world. In this episode, we drill down even deeper to ask a discouraging, yet essential, question: Does Canada have a foreign policy?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Graeme Thompson, Senior Analyst, Global Macro‑Geopolitics, Eurasia Group.

  • In June, Olivia Chow was elected mayor of Toronto. She faces an all-too-often complacent city with a hefty budget shortfall and a series of longstanding policy challenges, and failures. Affordable housing, transit, public safety, taxes, and parks spring to mind, but there’s plenty more.

    Chow’s performance may be evaluated on its own merits or demerits and against her predecessor’s; but her time as mayor will also stand as a test of left-wing governance. Fairly or unfairly, her mayoralty is a part that will be taken by some as typifying the whole.

    Can Olivia Chow remake Toronto?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Saman Tabasinejad, Acting Executive Director at Progress Toronto.

  • Canada’s housing crisis is persistent and brutal. In August, the average rent was nearly $2,100 a month – and much higher in cities including Vancouver and Toronto. The average cost to buy a home was about $670,000 – and, again, much higher in Vancouver, at $1.2 million, and Toronto at $1.1 million. The Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation says the country must build 5.8 million units by 2030 to hit affordable rates; we are on track for about half of that.

    Tackling this problem is going to take a multitude of policy efforts across orders of government – efforts that may benefit some people at the expense of others. And yet, what choice do we have? We must ensure everyone has a safe, affordable place to live. So, how do we solve the housing crisis?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Carolyn Whitzman, housing policy expert, adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, and author of Clara at the Door with a Revolver.

  • In June, this year became the worst wildfire season in Canadian history. Fires burned throughout the country. And there’s almost surely more to come. So far, over 10 million hectares have burned, sending toxic smoke from province to province and into the United States, where tens of millions of people were put under air quality advisories. The smoke caused some of the worst – on some days the worst – air quality in the world in major North American cities including New York and Toronto.

    The 2023 wildfire season, driven by what’s known as “fire weather,” may be a window into our future. As climate change runs amok and hotter, drier temperatures make wildfires more common and harder to control, we risk having to endure a brutal, deadly, and ecologically destructive new normal. So, what does fire weather mean for our future?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with John Vaillant, journalist and author of Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast.

  • The United States of America is a polarized country marked by toxic partisan politics. The state of American politics comes from somewhere. And it might have been otherwise. It has been shaped by powerful interests, technologies, and contingent forces. One of those – one of the most important – is cable television.

    A new book traces the history of cable television and the changing political and cultural landscape in the United States. In the background of the book looms an absolute bruiser of a question: Did cable television break America?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Kathryn Cramer Brownell, an assistant professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue University and the author of 24/7 Politics: Cable Television and the Fragmenting of America from Watergate to Fox News.

  • There are all kinds of euphemisms for fat bodies. They capture and obscure a persistent social discomfort and prejudice that appears across fields and settings, from pop culture, to airlines, to medicine and beyond. Weight is also a marker for constant abuse, online and offline. When it comes to weight, we have normalized prejudice, moral panic, and shaming, even as we have made such treatment socially unacceptable in relation to other markers.

    Where does the pathologizing of fat bodies come from? Who benefits from it and at whose expense? And how can we do better? We explore those questions and others as we ask: How should we think about fat bodies?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with May Friedman, professor in the School of Social Work at Toronto Metropolitan University and the author of several books, among them the recently released co-edited volume, Fat Studies in Canada: (Re)Mapping the Field.

  • For years, private interests have encroached upon public spaces. As time goes on, there are fewer and fewer places that belong to each of us regardless of our socioeconomic status–places where we can congregate or simply exist without needing to bend to the will of the market or worry about being surveilled.

    But what if our cities themselves were to fall to privatization? Imagine a city run, for instance, by a big tech company. Proprietary roads and sewers and sidewalks; data collection and surveillance here, there, and everywhere. The notion isn’t so far-fetched. A recent struggle in Toronto over Google’s attempt to pilot a “smart city” is a reminder that we can’t take anything for granted. So, who owns the future of public spaces?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Josh O’Kane, an award-winning reporter with the Globe and Mail and author of Sideways: The City Google Couldn’t Buy.

  • Last week in Alberta, Premier Danielle Smith and the United Conservative Party held on to government in a race that was much closer than the 49-38 seat count suggests. Indeed, a small shift in votes in a handful of ridings in Calgary would have tipped the contest in favour of the New Democratic Party. But that didn’t happen. NDP leader Rachel Notley says she will stay on as leader after losing to Smith, whose ministry and campaign were marked by gaffes, scandals, and utter absurdity.

    If you’re wondering how Smith managed to perform as well as she did after comparing those who received a Covid vaccine to followers of Hitler, and what she’ll do next as she takes aim at the federal government and climate policy, you have come to the right place as we ask: What just happened in Alberta–and what comes next?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Alberta politics writer Dave Cournoyer.

  • This is the first episode in our three-piece series on the past, present, and future of public spaces in Canada. In these episodes we’ll cover nature, cities, and big national undertakings – things we do, have done, or might do together in spaces meant for all of us. We’ll also discuss threats to public spaces, of which there are many, and what is being done to address them.

    Now, nature is the ultimate public space. There is something fundamental about it. Something essential. Nature pre-existed the built world and in one form or another it will outlast it, too. But not everyone has equal access to nature, and some communities and groups are less likely to have that access. In that way, it’s very much like other spaces, the ones we have created.

    There are a number of reasons people ought to have both a right and an ability to access public spaces in nature. Among them are physical health, mental health, education, and pure, simple joy. One organization is fighting to secure that access, especially for youth from low-income households and BIPOC communities. To understand their work, and the battle for green public spaces, we ask: Who gets to spend time in nature?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Andrew Young, the executive director of Outward Bound Canada.

  • We spend an awful lot of time talking about housing and development—and we should. But often lost in the conversation is how we manage rural land and housing. The vast majority of Canada is urbanized, but in case you were thinking what happens “out there” has nothing to do with you, think again. Rural areas are home to plenty of houses and residential developments of their own, but they are also the site of the country’s farmland. In the face of geopolitical shifts, climate change, and the ever present concern of food security, rural development is an important issue. The bad news? Things are…not going well, particularly in Canada’s most populous province, Ontario.

    To understand the state of rural development, where things are headed, and how we might do better, we ask the fundamental question: Who should care about rural development?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Jeff Wheeldon, a municipal councillor in Brighton, Ontario, a real estate agent, and a housing advocate.

  • At Carleton University, a union local is fighting for a fair deal for its workers–and getting ready for a strike. Across Ontario and Canada, unionized workplaces are fighting similar battles, even while the balance of power continues to favour employers by default.

    Democratized workplaces produce better results for employees, and everyone down the line, too. Recent gains in Canada and the United States might point to a new dawn for unions as people struggle with the cost of living crisis and unfavourable working conditions. But the future, as it tends to be, is uncertain. We can, however, follow the clues and ask: What does a campus labour struggle tell us about unions in Canada?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Noreen Cauley-Le Fevre, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 4600 and a PhD Candidate in Geography at Carleton University; and Graham Cox, a research representative at CUPE.

  • Like it or not, we are stuck online. Digital life is a reflection and extension of life offline–if we can even talk about life offline anymore. It’s not like the old days of logging on and logging off. We are constantly connected. Our social, political, and economic lives are bound up with the digital world. So is our public sphere. And much of that world is controlled by a handful of very wealthy, very powerful tech giants.

    Digital space presents several significant challenges to the public good. Dis- and misinformation, domestic and foreign. Toxicity by way of name-calling, hate speech, and bullying. Economic exploitation, asymmetrical access, class divides. Doxxing and hacking. Even the threat of physical violence. It’s pretty grim stuff. In light of these challenges, how can we build a healthier digital public sphere?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, host David Moscrop talks with Taylor Owen, Beaverbrook Chair in Media, Ethics and Communications, the founding director of The Center for Media, Technology and Democracy, and an Associate Professor in the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.

  • In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford is trying to address the province’s healthcare crisis. With over 200,000 people waiting for surgeries, long emergency room wait times, too few family physicians, and nurses burning out and leaving the profession, something must be done. But Ford’s plan is to introduce more for-profit care into the system. He calls it “innovation.” It’s been done in other provinces. It won’t solve the crisis, but it might introduce new problems.

    Saving healthcare in Ontario, and Canada, requires structural changes to preserve and extend the public and not-for-profit elements of the system. And don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. It can. There are best practices. We just need to adopt them at scale. So, how do we fix Canadian healthcare?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Dr. Melanie Bechard, a pediatric emergency doctor and Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare.

  • Canadians can be forgiven for making a national pastime out of expressing anger at the state of competition in the country. Telecom, grocery, transportation, entertainment, and several other industries are an utter, anti-consumer disaster. As I like to put it, Canada is made up of three telecom companies in a trenchcoat.

    There may be some hope for change, however, as the country undertakes a review of its competition policy and the Competition Bureau pushes back a bit more than usual against monopoly and oligopoly. So, will the Canadian marketplace ever be competitive?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Vass Bednar, executive director of McMaster University’s Master of Public Policy Program in Digital Society, senior fellow with The Centre for International Governance Innovation, and the writer of the popular newsletter “regs to riches.”

  • Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada requires structural transformation. One essential site of institutional reform is the country’s legal systems.

    In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released 94 calls to action. In call to action #42, the TRC called upon “the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to commit to the recognition and implementation of Aboriginal justice systems in a manner consistent with the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of Aboriginal peoples, the Constitution Act, 1982, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples endorsed by Canada in November 2012.”

    To understand what meaningful reform could look like, we ask: How should Canada engage with Indigenous legal traditions?

    On this episode of Open to Debate, David Moscrop talks with Dr. Val Napoleon, dean, professor, and Law Foundation Chair of Indigenous Justice and Governance at the University of Victoria, and Dr. Hadley Friedland, associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta.