VIU's Engaged Citizens Speaker Series is a forum designed to provoke intellectual, engaging and meaningful dialogue about social challenges, opportunities and the community around us. Talks take place once per year on timely, relevant and thought-provoking topics aimed at engaging community members in a wider discussion around understanding the responsibilities of good citizenship.

Bad Leaders, Bad Followers: Threats to democracy that we don't talk about enough

Bad leaders bad followers poster


There have been countless books written about leadership, but most focus on good leadership and what makes for a good leader. Dr. Michael MacKenzie, VIU’s Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership, argues that we don’t spend enough time talking about bad leadership, or bad followers – and not having these conversations is a major threat to democracy. Join him on April 15, 2024 at 6:30 pm as he examines good and bad leadership and what citizens need consider when it comes to leadership in a healthy democratic society. His keynote talk will followed by a panel discussion moderated by CKNW radio host Jas Johal  featuring:

  • Shachi Kurl, President of the Angus Reid Institute, and
  • Lisa Helps, former mayor of Victoria and Executive Lead for BC Builds Project Origination and Process Innovation at BC Housing.

Thank you to TD Insurance and the VIU Alumni Association for sponsoring this event!

Speaker and panelist bios


As VIU’s Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership, Dr. Michael MacKenzie is working with four other Jarislowsky Chairs at universities across Canada to create a program in democratic leadership for future politicians, community leaders and civil servants.  

MacKenzie has spent the past 20 years studying and writing about democracy. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of British Columbia, a master’s in political science and social statistics from McGill University and a bachelor of arts in politics from the University of Winnipeg.

He worked as a policy analyst and facilitator with the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. He was also a Democracy Fellow and post-doctoral researcher at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School. Before coming to VIU, he was an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh.


Jas Johal hosts a daily three-hour public affairs program on BC's most listened to news radio station, CKNW. Each day the program provides unrivalled coverage of news and current affairs, from politics, the economy, technology, arts and culture. Prior to hosting the program, he served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly here in British Columbia. He has also served as the Asia Bureau Chief for Global National News, based in New Delhi, India and in Beijing, where he traveled extensively reporting on the economy, domestic and foreign policy, and on the environment.


Shachi Kurl is President of the Angus Reid Institute, Canada’s non-profit foundation committed to independent research. She works with public opinion data to further public knowledge and enhance the national understanding of issues that matter to Canada and the world.

Kurl is often found offering analysis on CBC’s “Power and Politics”, in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, and on the editorial pages of the Ottawa Citizen, among other places. In October 2020, she moderated BC’s only televised provincial election debate, presented by the British Columbia Broadcast Consortium.

She spent the first part of her career as political reporter and holds a degree in Journalism and Political Science from Carleton University. She returned to Carleton University as an Adjunct Research Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication in 2022.

Kurl is a recipient of the prestigious Jack Webster Award for Best TV Reporting. Along with former Australian and UK Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Margaret Thatcher, she is an Alumnus of the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. She is a national co-chair of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Kurl moderated the 2021 English language leaders debate during the 44th federal election. She also won the Industry Marvel Award from Darpan Magazine in October of that year.


Lisa Helps is the former two-term Mayor of Victoria, British Columbia. She is currently working as Executive Lead BC Builds Project Origination and Process Innovation at BC Housing. Previously she was the Housing Solutions Advisor to Premier Eby for the start-up of BC Builds, a new housing program that uses public land, low-cost financing, and other innovative tools to get more housing built more quickly for working people in BC. As Mayor, Lisa worked hard to create deep collaboration across the community to get Victoria ready for the future and built connection across the Province as Co-Chair of the BC Urban Mayors Caucus to advance shared priorities for cities. Areas of focus included economic development and prosperity, housing, climate action, resilient infrastructure, and reconciliation. Please see for more information.  

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