Canada suffering from huge democratic deficit, report says

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ottawa – Canada is experiencing a huge democratic deficit with trust in Canadian government and public institutions on a steep decline, says a report on Democratic Engagement released today by the Institute of Wellbeing.

The report, which assesses Canadians' democratic engagement, looks at eight quality of life indicators and finds Canadians aren't satisfied with their democracy – which shows growing skepticism in political institutions and declining voter turnout rates.

The disconnect between Canadians and those who govern on their behalf is deep, wide, and growing,

said Lynne Slotek, CEO of the Institute of Wellbeing.

At a time when people are demanding greater accountability and transparency, they see their government institutions becoming more remote and opaque. Too many Canadians feel that their voices are not being heard; that their efforts to influence government policy are ignored or inconsequential; and that the decisions that their elected representatives are making reflect neither their values nor their concerns.

Among the report's key findings:

  • Fewer Canadians are voting. Turnout in the most recent federal election, in 2008, was the lowest in Canadian history at 59.1%, down more than 10 percentage points from 1993.
  • Participation rates in formal political activities are extremely low. The number of people volunteering for law, advocacy and political groups has hovered at about 2% or less throughout the past decade, and hours volunteered dropped by 15% from 2004 to 2007.
  • Canadians aren't satisfied with their democracy. Between 40-45% said they were not satisfied with how democracy works in Canada. (2004 and 2006 surveys)
  • An overwhelming majority of people say that federal government policies have not made their lives better. Only 12% said their lives had been improved by federal policies when last surveyed in 2006.
  • Women and minorities are underrepresented in the political process. Since 1997, the percentage of women in Parliament has remained relatively steady – and low – at about 20%.

A summary (1) and full version (2) of the Democratic Engagement report as well as the document on improving Canada's democratic engagement - 10 ideas for positive change - (3), are available for download:

  1. Democratic Engagement - Report Highlights (PDF, 345KB)
  2. Democratic Engagement - A Report of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (PDF, 2MB)
  3. Democratic Engagement - Ideas for Positive Change (PDF, 85KB)

For further information, please contact: Linda McKessock at

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