Series 2, Episode 5
Making Democracy Work

There is a common phrase: “Real democracy is what happens between elections.” It also moves beyond politics – it’s how we relate to each other online and offline, at work and in the public square, wherever we find community. We work together, often across difference, to make decisions in our individual and collective interest. So how do we ensure everyone is heard in the pursuit of decent work? Ausma sits down with Chris Cowperthwaite and Nicole Gagliardi to break this down.

Chris Cowperthwaite is a longtime political activist, working to empower citizens to drive change through civic and political action. He is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Open Democracy Project.

Nicole Gagliardi brings together community knowledge and engagement to drive — and communicate — positive change. She works at the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough.

Get Connected

Know what you’re ready to fight for and want to launch your own civic campaign? Check out Democracy Kits.

Interested in starting your own Vital Conversation? Download the kit and read all about the results.

Nicole and Chris shouted out to a bunch of groups doing great work in the fight for democracy and decent work – find out more about them!

  • The New Canadians Centre Peterborough is a welcoming and inclusive space, working to engage community members and newcomers in community development.
  • Nourish is a project tackling food security and agricultural economies in Peterborough bringing together community members for workshops on food and civic literacy.
  • Reimagine Peterborough is a movement supporting and engaging residents’ participation in official planning processes
  • The Canadian Film Centre is a charitable organization that supports creators and workers in film, television, scoring, and digital industries.
  • The Fight for $15 and Fairness is a movement committed to raising the minimum wage in Ontario and updating labour laws – and they have recorded some impressive wins.


The changing nature of employment is captured in The Precarity Penalty, a report published by the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario (PEPSO) research group. PEPSO is a joint university-community initiative led by United Way Toronto & York Region and McMaster University in partnership with over 30 university, community sector, labour, government and media partners. The report indicates that workers in precarious employment were more likely to be socially isolated and less likely to vote.  Additional research can be found here.

Election Day as a Statutory Holiday? Emma Teitel makes the case.