“[W]hen we asked those on the front lines of Canadian democracy—Members of Parliament— they pointed their fingers in a different direction. To them, it is often the way political parties manage themselves, their members and their work that really drives the contemporary dysfunction facing Canadian politics.”
The Irish Labour Party recently released a new report entitled ‘New Government, Better Government’ outlining 140 democratic reform proposals. Fair Voting BC has not yet had time to review these, but they touch on many aspects of democracy ranging from accountability mechanisms such as independent oversight commissions and whistleblower legislation to finance reform, the Electoral Commission, workload issues and more. You can find some informed commentary at PoliticalReform.ie. We’d love to have your comments.
In 2007, the Canadian federal government undertook a public consultation on democratic reform. This consultation addressed five main areas: the role of the citizen in democracy, the House of Commons, the Senate, political parties and the electoral system.
“Most forum participants believed that governments do not consult people regularly and felt that consultation was often not genuine. As remedies for encouraging public engagement in the democratic process, forum participants tended to recommend better, more respectful consultation and stronger civics education to give young people a greater appreciation of our system. A desire for stronger civics education emerged spontaneously in discussions of all topics. The survey data revealed exceptionally high levels of interest in more government consultation.”
This book was written by Gordon Gibson (who later played an important role in BC’s Citizens’ Assembly) and put out by the Fraser Institute. It argues that “multiple significant reforms are available to restore voter confidence in our public institutions.”
Excerpt from summary:
“Fixing Canadian Democracy points to a variety of ways to improve our governance system. The book is the result of a major Fraser Institute conference on democratic reform during which some of the finest practitioners and thinkers from British Columbia and Ottawa were brought together for presentations on selecting and empowering representatives, the place and limits of direct democracy, constitutional constraints, and how to make any of the above a reality.
Some versions of democracy work better than others. Gordon Gibson, the book’s editor and a contributing author, points out that Canada’s democratic system is one of the most primitive in the western world and that Canadians are — for all practical purposes — governed by four-year elected dictators as things stand now.
“We ought to be the most prosperous and harmonious country on the face of the earth, yet clearly we are not,” says Gibson, senior fellow in Canadian Studies at the Institute. “Our living standard is much lower than in the US or many other smaller countries and the public is broadly cynical and apathetic with respect to our political process – and rightly so.“”
Democratic Engagement measures the participation of citizens in public life and in governance; the functioning of Canadian governments with respect to openness, transparency, effectiveness, fairness, equity and accessibility; and the role Canadians and their institutions play as global citizens.
Key findings are:
Many Canadians are not satisfied with the state of their democracy.
An overwhelming majority of Canadians feel that the policies of the federal government have not made their lives better.