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Project Overview:

Debate on issues critical to Canada has become polarized, leading to ‘wedge solutions’ and difficulty reaching shared agreement.  This is a challenge for the government and the public service as they try to find answers to complex problems that unite rather than divide. In many cases, political, public service, and industry leaders are actually talking past each other on these topics. This results in exacerbating the divide in Canada, rather than bridging it.

Through Driving Dialogue and Debate IOG staff are using the example of four policy discourses to:

  • examine how we – political staff, public servants and others – discuss these topics in ways that create those divisions
  • identify the way we discuss these topics – by creating narratives – that prevents us from seeing the perspectives of others
  • deconstruct the narratives at play in order to identify how we can identify common ground, and work together to develop win-win solutions

This project is not a collection of debates on serious policy issues. It’s an opportunity to examine why Canada remains divided on these four topics, and presents a possible way of working towards bridging our differences.

So what is narrative? Narrative is storytelling. It’s communicating a message that “speaks to people’s emotional intelligence as well as their intellect. It provides them with a mental picture of a new situation or environment (what is there, how it will work, what it will achieve) and gives them a visceral sense of what is at stake (what they are aspiring to, what challenges must be overcome to achieve it, how this will be done and who are their allies and adversaries).

Most importantly, narrative helps people understand the unknown and adjust to the unfamiliar. It uses literary devices, such as metaphors, images, mood, and dramatic tension, to make sense of complex situations and to help us navigate through them.

Typically, narratives come from the top down. A clever politician, a small committee, or an enterprising communications firm develops a narrative to explain and/or “sell” a viewpoint on an issue to others (usually the public). What we are seeing in contemporary Canada is the emergence of equally compelling counter narratives on the four topics identified above. In practice, they are compelling means to convey an argument but they are ineffective at negotiating a solution which the whole country can support.

This is where the learning portions of each of the IOG’s four events come in. Over a series of four sessions IOG staff and participants will:

  • Explore how to deconstruct a narrative by examining the emotions, values and facts at play
  • Explore the role of risk, fear and motivation behind narrative
  • Discuss fundamental types of controversy that are at the root of some of these topics
  • Work through how to get past a narrative to listen to each other and find commonalities from which win-win solutions may be negotiated

Target Audience:

Public servants at all levels. This initiative will help the public service support the government’s efforts to reach out to Canadians in ways that unite rather than divide. Public servants will also want to attend to learn how these issues can be addressed and to gain insights into how to reframe issues as win/wins.

Session Format:

Each session will be broken down into two parts:

  1. Day 1 - Debate - 9:30AM - 11:30AM - free to anyone who wants to attend
  2. Day 2 - Dialogue/Learning Session - 9:30AM -11:00AM - for paid registrations only


Free to attend the debate only

$99 per dialogue/learning session. $299 for all four. As a not-for-profit, IOG does not collect HST. 


Whether you choose to attend just the free debate, or both the debate and the dialogue/learning session, you will need to register to the series. Click here to register.

Session Dates and Details

Read more about each session or register to attend by clicking the session titles below (Looking to register for all four? Any link will work)!

  1. Immigration
    1. Debate: 9:30AM - 11:30AM - May 19th, 2020 - Watch the YouTube Recording Here
    2. Dialogue/Learning Session: 9:30AM - 11:00AM - May 20th, 2020

  2. Balancing the Environment and the Economy
    1. Debate: 9:30AM - 11:30AM - June 9th, 2020 - Watch the YouTube Recording Here
    2. Dialogue/Learning Session: 9:30AM - 11:00AM - June 10th, 2020

  3. Western Alienation
    1. Debate: 9:30AM - 11:30AM - June 29th, 2020 - Watch the YouTube Recording Here
    2. Dialogue/Learning Session: 9:30AM - 11:00AM - June 30th, 2020

  4. Political Divisiveness and a Polarized Electorate
    1. Debate: 9:30AM - 11:30AM - July 21st, 2020 - Watch the YouTube Recording Here
    2. Dialogue/Learning Session: 9:30AM - 11:00AM - July 22nd, 2020

Have Questions?

To learn more about this project, please contact Laura Edgar by email at ledgar@iog.ca or by phone at 613-562-0090 ext. 226.