Creating space for transformative conversations

Bruce & Lis Welch Community Dialogue: Rethinking BC Referendums

January 31, 2019

About the event:

Electoral reform. Harmonized Sales Tax. Transit funding. The last few years have seen British Columbians participate in an unprecedented number of referendums. The result has frequently been increased political and regional division, confused voters, and a platform for extreme ideas.

In the time of fake news, ideological biases, and the rapid spread of misinformation, voters often have difficulty finding relevant, reliable, and concise information to help them assess the policy issues that appear on their ballots. Is there a way to consult the public without divisive rhetoric and poor-quality public discourse? And when is a referendum an appropriate tool to do so?

On Thursday, January 31, from 5:00pm-7:00pm, SFU's Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue will host a community dialogue to discuss real democratic reforms happening in the United States and in Canada. Penn State University political communication professor John Gastil will share his insights on a reform that can help voters make smarter decisions in initiative elections. This event is one of the thirty events happening in 2019, celebrating the 30th anniversary of SFU's Vancouver Campus.

This event is free but registration is required. Save your seats now!  

About The Moderator: Shauna Sylvester, Professor of Professional Practice, SFU 

Shauna Sylvester is the Executive Director of Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue and Co-Founder and Senior Advisor of SFU Public Square. Shauna is a skilled facilitator, social entrepreneur and commentator on international issues. She has led several dialogues on density, business development, transportation and energy and she served as the lead facilitator for the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing in Vancouver. Prior to leading SFU Public Square and Carbon Talks, Shauna served as the Founding Executive Director of Canada’s World—a national citizen engagement initiative on foreign policy.

About The Speaker: John Gastil, Professor of Political Communication, Penn State University  

Dr. John Gastil studies political deliberation and group decision making across a range of contexts. His Jury and Democracy Project has investigated, and hopefully helped vindicate, the jury system as a valuable civic educational institution. Professor Gastil has integrated some of the best research in his primary fields of study in two books. Political Communication and Deliberation uses the idea of public deliberation as a way to organize the wider study of political communication, and The Group in Society presents an Embedded System Framework for integrating research on group communication and behavior. He teaches courses on Democratic Deliberation and Group Communication.


The SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue is located at 580 W. Hastings St (enter via Seymour Street courtyard entrance), and is located a brief walk from Waterfront station and numerous bus stops. Bike racks are available outside the Hastings entrance of SFU Harbour Centre (located across the street). Nearby parking is available at 500 & 400 W. Cordova St.

Washrooms are located on the lower level, second, third, and fourth floors. The venue has a gender-neutral washroom, available on the second floor. All floors within the building are wheelchair accessible and serviced by elevators. The chairs within AP Hall have armrests, with the seat measuring 47cm (w) x 46cm (d).

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments regarding this event’s accessibility, feel free to contact us at

This dialogue is a part of the thirty events taking place in 2019 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of SFU's Vancouver Campus.