The decline and fall of Canadian democracy


I’ve seen this graph in a couple of places, but as someone sent it to me I’ll post it here. It combines falling turnout with growing electoral fragmentation to track the decline over successive federal elections in the winning party’s “mandate,” expressed not as a share of the popular vote, but of the overall electorate. (Not sure if this means registered voters, or the voting-age population, but it doesn’t make a huge difference either way.)

I haven’t checked the numbers, but they look about right. It’s a pretty depressing picture: governments are now claiming “mandates” with the support of barely two voters in 10.


The decline and fall of Canadian democracy

  1. The more government involves itself in our lives, fewer of us vote. The only reason I voted this past election was because I consider it my civic duty to do so. My voting had nothing to do with what the parties are offering in the way of policies because on that front they are tweedledum and tweedledee.

  2. Andrew Coyne, I am a little surprised at your position here. The legitimacy of the mandate is provided by those who gave a damn and hauled ass to the polling booth. To allow the growing couldn’t-care-lesses to somehow de-legitimize the mandate of those elected according to the law of the land is, to say the least, troubling.

    Please don’t tell me that if we plagiarize the Australian must-vote rules, the graph’s upward trend will suddenly provide you a new-found faith in Canadian democracy. I don’t buy that for a second. Forcing the clueless to choose for the rest of us who actually care is a step backwards.

    Lament all you like that there are so many ill-informed or irresponsible or lazy Canadians. But don’t you dare invalidate the legitimacy of the elected.

    PS in an earlier thread I wondered aloud (if an anonymous commenter posts a blog comment, does it make a sound?) how the permanent electoral list might inflate the number of allegedly eligible voters compared to door-to-door enumeration. AC doesn’t seem to care if the denominator is voting-age population or registered voters. But maybe there is a bit of a diff after all…

  3. I agree, it is depressing.

    What is the solution? Mandatory voting, like in Australia?

    Certainly, a change in our electoral system would help.

  4. I saw a few “man-on-the-street” TV interviews with people (mostly young) who admitted they did not vote, and they said either they didn’t know enough or were too busy (which is why they didn’t know enough, I guess.) They likely have grown up used to having their every need met, and are too busy pursuing the “good life”. Some hard times might smarten them up, but in the meantime it is just as well they leave the voting to people who are informed.

  5. The more government involves itself in our lives, fewer of us vote.

    Absolute nonsense.

    Anyway, the reason why people are not voting is because the believe it doesn’t matter. And they’re correct. When you live in a society in which you’ve been told (via the corporate media) the only important actions are those you take as a consumer, why vote?

  6. I agree with madeyoulook. If people are too ignorant or can’t be bothered to vote, or a combination of the two, I don’t see how it impacts the government’s mandate, at all.

    It is troubling that our citizenry is not more engaged in auto-governance which is what democracy is all about. Democracy requires an involved and virtuous citizenry. Today, we expect little from our citizenry. Reponsible citizenship is not fostered in this country, neither is love of country. We as a nation are all about rights and never about duties.

    Why, if I’m not mistaken, Mr. Coyne even thinks felons should have the right to vote in federal elections and agreed when the Supreme Court struck down a law disenfranchising them. You’ve broken our most basic criminal laws, our moral code, but what the hell, you can participate in the law-making process by electing our Parliamentarians, in other words, our lawmakers.

    We need to encourage an informed and involved citizenry. Yet our institutional elites expect little from its citizenry and practically discourage responsible citizenship. We are creating a society of democratic illiterates. That’s a shame. Those illiterates are apparently not voting, which is unsurprising. Illiterates are putty in the hands of demagogues, and we have too much of those around as it is. Gilles Duceppe comes to mind but there are others.

  7. Quite frankly, the uninformed vote is no worse than the informed vote.

  8. “Quite frankly, the uninformed vote is no worse than the informed vote.”

    Weren’t the Nazi’s initially democratically elected?

  9. I agree with madeyoulook. If people are too ignorant or can’t be bothered to vote, or a combination of the two, I don’t see how it impacts the government’s mandate, at all.

    There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the people who bother to vote are better informed about the issues than those who don’t. A study of non-voters in Alberta suggested their own self-reporting about the reasons they didn’t vote was not reliable.

    It may be that they are better informed about the Party platforms, or the campaign was better at selling itself to them or, as in the case with Conservatives, the tribal loyalties that are being appealed to are more visceral, but that doesn’t suggest they are better informed about substantive issues that really count.

  10. Ti-Guy: “It may be that they are better informed about the Party platforms, or the campaign was better at selling itself to them or, as in the case with Conservatives, the tribal loyalties that are being appealed to are more visceral …”

    Can’t help yourself, can ya?

    All very tiresome.

  11. “Weren’t the Nazis initially democratically elected”

    Of course they were, Jarrid. After preparing the way through years of economic uncertainty and chaos by demonizing the more liberal segments of German society. And then killing them.

    It didn’t have to be that way. They could very easily have stopped at the demonizing part. That works too.

  12. Can’t help yourself, can ya?

    All very tiresome.

    Oh, that’s too bad. I’ll try harder, I promise.

    Maybe I’ll just change to my name to ConBot and agree with all the others. I’m sure that’ll provoke no reaction at all.

  13. Seems to me that Andrew’s point is that politicans should stop saying they have a “mandate” or as seen in this case, a “stronger” mandate to govern when in fact they draw their mandate from less than 1/3 of those who could vote. Frankly the optics aren’t much better even if you consider those that voted. Less than 40% of those who took the time to vote (informed, uninformed or otherwise) actually cast a vote for the party that is currently leading our currently.

    In my view, it argues less for a mandatory voting system than one where votes start meaning something, and party standings in Parliament more accurately reflect the vote across the country.

  14. Ti-Guy, you get it wrong. I like it when people disagree with me. I just like them to do it with reasoned points, and not rely on the easy (but ultimately lame) slags.

    But whatever floats your boat.

  15. If you’ll permit a friendly suggestion, KRB. Step one: Identify the (blessedly small!) number of trolls at this site who (a) have nothing useful to say (either for or against your particular stance), or (b) call you or anyone else “liars!” without any facts to back up the stupid charge, or (c) enjoy nothing more than hurling insults to and fro. Step two: ignore them completely. Step three: refer repeatedly to step two.

  16. At the risk of repeating myself, we are not fostering engaged citizens in this country.

    Our education system encourages self-esteem. Kids today and young adults are pretty much a self-absorbed navel-gazing lot. A responsible citizen and voter looks at society’s greater good and has a stake in the greater community outside himself. That is aforeign concept to today’s kids and twenty and thirty somethings. The only exception being on issues where the schools are engaged in overt mind-numbing propaganda like man-made global warming. They show Al Gore’s propaganda film to impressionable young minds and they call it education.

    Maybe that is one explanation why the Green vote went up while everyone else’s was done.

  17. Step two: ignore them completely.

    You’ve failed that, obviously.

    I’ve read two reports on non-voters recently…one on Albertan non-voters and one from Elections Canada. Neither one was satisfactory because they relied mostly on self-reporting and I’m not clear that the reasons people articulate are the substantive ones. I get the impression when I talk to non-voters themselves, the reasons are complicated and that they themselves don’t really know, but you do get a sense that it doesn’t matter (and, as I’ve said, it doesn’t…even I know that and I’ve always voted).

  18. I like it when people disagree with me. I just like them to do it with reasoned points, and not rely on the easy (but ultimately lame) slags.

    You mean I’m not allowed to slag the Conservatives?

    What other rules should I be aware of?

  19. Our education system encourages self-esteem. Kids today and young adults are pretty much a self-absorbed navel-gazing lot. A responsible citizen and voter looks at society’s greater good and has a stake in the greater community outside himself. That is aforeign concept to today’s kids and twenty and thirty somethings. The only exception being on issues where the schools are engaged in overt mind-numbing propaganda like man-made global warming. They show Al Gore’s propaganda film to impressionable young minds and they call it education.

    Do you have any evidence to support these assertions?

    Anyway, my interest in civic activity was not nurtured in school but by my parents.

  20. Ah, yes, Jarrid. But they gotta walk by the Coke and MickeyD addys on the bottled water machines to get to the Gore flick. So all is good.

  21. Ti-Guy,

    Are those reports online. It would be informative to have a look. Low turnout gets so much press, but so little analysis.

    Probably a bunch of reasons. My view, consumerism is the biggest problem in that you can now buy anything and have it tailored to your like. Voting means compromising (even with PR) and voting means you might lose. Or maybe voters are too informed, why vote Tory in Trin Spadina or Liberal in Crawfoot.

  22. Given that the modern media still controls the flow of information to the public,

    an interesting question to ponder is:

    to what extent in the modern media to blame for rising voter antipathy?

    Given the desire to focus on the “gotcha” rather than substance, like say; cartoon birds, five year old speeches, the dreaded wearing of sweaters, and the telling of private gallows humour jokes, all of which grabbed headline after headline, for seemingly partisan reasons,

    is it any wonder the public “tunes out”?

    Yes the immediate effect is falling circulation prices, share prices ect (see NY Times for instance),

    but the broader implications to democracy are more profound.

  23. Of course, the chances of the media shining the camera light on themselves in an act of healthy introspection,

    are somewhere between nil and


  24. Kody, to be fair, the superficial garbage was not merely as one-sided as your list. But superficial garbage it was.

    Still: if the citizen will permit spoonfeeding of media nonsense, under the media’s premise that this is what the citizen wishes to have spoonfed; if the citizen feels no particular urge to get better informed on the issues and policies; if the citizen just plain tunes out in disgust; if the citizen “doesn’t bother” to vote for his or her best choice in foregone conclusion ridings…

    None of the above is the media’s fault. It is the citizen’s. It is even, I suggest, a citizen’s unwitting patriotic contribution to stay away from the polling booth. “I don’t have a clue, I couldn’t care less, Seinfeld is on and I’ve only seen that episode three times before…” By all means, sir, madam, let those of us who do care put in the little effort.

  25. madeyoulook,

    except that notion is premised on the fact that the media is accurately giving the public what it desires, rather than on what the media wants the public to desire.

    Case in point,

    NBC, CBS and ABC all showed double digit declines in news viewership for September.

    The NYT’s circulation is at all time historical lows, as is its share price

    (sorry but media analysis of Canadian products is just not available or noted these days),

    In short the media is NOT accurately reading the publics’ needs.

  26. And if you could give me four examples that are as egregious/pronounced that flowed in the conservatives’ favour, I’d love to see them.

  27. kody, I did not say there wasn’t an anti-Harper tilt in the whole superficial gotcha crap, only that it was not as one-sided as you laid out. Dion was portrayed as an inept campaigner who stubbornly wouldn’t take advice. OK, that is actually true, but not a discussion of substantive policy. No airplane. Finally an airplane, an old gas-guzzling clunker. Leadership rivals plotting the coup as they smile on the stage (ok, that one was true, too…). Starking. Present tense vs. some gymnastic double inward conditional past with a dangling participle somewhere in Halifax.

    My only point is there was enough nonsensical garbage to go around. The media most certainly did not shower itself in democratic glory. But if the citizen made zero effort to get informed on the issues and vote accordingly in the national interest, I will not blame the media on that one.

  28. There is an even simpler explanation of why voters think there votes don’t matter as much. They don’t.

    1949, after Newfoundland joined: 262 House seats, 14.4M population, 51.3k per seat

    2008: 308 House seats, 33.4M, 108k/seat.

    So individual votes are now worth about half what they were in 1949 in determining the plurality in a riding.

  29. Oh, Navigator, please don’t tell me you are advocating in favour of a LARGER number of MPs. If you are a $ contributor to this country (i.e. a taxpayer), please give your head a big shake.

  30. *a larger number of MPs*

    The way harper runs things only one is needed: Himself. ;-)

  31. The number of MPs could matter in that in the old days since there were less people per riding, people were more likely to actually know the candidates or know someone who knew the candidates (people also moved less, and, at least I’m told, had a greater sense of community).

  32. Loss of community has a lot do with the decline in civic engagement. And that’s the result of very poor urban planning stretching back to the end of WW2.

  33. The mandate is more slender than you think. Every inhabitant of Canada is subjected to the taxes and regulations imposed by the federal government but only 41 percent of them voted at all and a miniscule 15 percent voted for the party whose hacks and backroom fixers are going to be drafting all legislation, choosing all heads of departments, agencies and crown corporations, hiring all senior bureaucrats and judges and appointing all senators for the next few years. And the spending controlled at this level will to a large extent dictate the spending at the provincial and municipal levels where hardly anything is done any more unless the fed coughs up. Not to mention the control exerted over these other governments by federally appointed judges.

    On the basis of this 15 percent mandate (much of which was frankly either self-interested or deluded) the government has no grounds to think that it can control people’s lives and incomes the way they do. There are a lot more federal government programs which would be shot down in flames, if they were ever the subject of a referendum, than programs which would receive an “OK”. Yet every major political party is in nearly complete agreement on nearly all of these policies. Whenever they appear to be in disagreement on a major policy (such as wage and price controls, the GST, free trade and the gun registry), the voters soon find out that it was all a lie and none of the parties has the slightest intention of changing the status quo (which I believe is a latin term for “Really Really Big Government).

    Who decided that the federal government and their partners in crime at the provincial and municipal level should have total control over people’s lives? Voters didn’t. The political elites decided, on the basis of the chaos which was created by previous bad policies, that we what we all need is a lot of big, powerful nannies.

    People are staying home on voting day in greater numbers because of their deep disgust at the size, intrusiveness, incompetence and corruption of government. Don’t believe the self-interested and deluded people who claim that non-balloting indicates assent to the loathsome policies of the foul political establishment. It’s the exact opposite.

    You want the citizens to become “involved” again? Give them their money back and give them back their freedom and personal responsibility. It’s the ultimate “involvement”.

  34. Give them their money back…

    Yeah. Wal-Mart and Rogers needs more of it.

  35. madeyoulook,


  36. So many people try so hard to find something to blame for lower and lower voter turnout. The politicians are crooked. The media is biased. Nobody is connecting with the people. I say bulls–t to it all. Maybe people are just lazy? Maybe we’ve collectively acheived such shallowness than democracy is but a nuisance. Maybe we’ve got it so good, and we do from a worldly perspective, that when it comes down to it we just don’t care. No dictators? Check. No monarchists? Check. No communists? Check. No care? CHECK!

  37. Andrew, are you saying that a decrease in fragmentation would be proportionate to an increase in turnout? Because that doesn’t appear to be the case in the two-party U.S. system.

  38. I’m not going to defend civic apathy, but I do think that, objectively, the low turnout and vote fragmentation affects the government’s mandate.

    A mandate isn’t a technical term, it’s a very mysterious, spiritual thing. It doesn’t just mean that you won the election. It has to do with the mood of the country overall. You have to be able to say “Canada is behind me” and really mean it. Without that, you have a “limited mandate,” which is just a way of saying you won.

    I do think that we have a major problem in our electoral system, and Mr. Coyne’s chart is one stark expression of it. Generally speaking, the problem is civic entropy, and it’s both a bottom-up and a top-down phenomenon. The country needs a new reason to exist: a placid, consumeristic Eden is self-defeating in the end.

  39. I like the explanation offered by Al Heck Brakes.

    There once was a time when we were voting whether there would be an income tax or not. Now we vote whether the income tax is 28% or 29%.

    There once was a time when we voted for or against public health care. Now we vote about whether the system will received another 9 billion dollars or another 10 billion dollars.

    The role of government in education is largely settled, the only question is how much more money will be spent.

    Once we were voting on what is a crime and what isn’t. Now the vote is not about the crimes themselves, but instead the tools to commit them (gun registry) and the penalties (youth sentencing).

    Controversial issues are not even looked at anymore (abortion). Meanwhile, elections are turned on minuscule cuts to artists.

    There seems to be a consensus that government can and will extend its reach everywhere, and for the most part there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. Everything is taxed, and everything is regulated. Nothing much changes. Now that government is so big, it is like any other lumbering monopoly: completely unchangeable.

    Changing the way government behaves today is like reversing the path of a giant ocean liner.

    The real source of change in today’s world is technology.

    I also think that demographics has a role to play in voter apathy. People live longer, and the ratio of young to old is shrinking. Once consequence of that is that votes change less. Opinions change less.

    There is not much incentive to vote if you think it will not change much.

  40. I like the Gibbons reference (in the blog title).

  41. The crux of the matter is legitimacy: a parliament that doesn’t resemble how people actually vote is unrepresentative, therefore it lacks legitimacy, & turns-off people from voting in future because they conclude “why bother?”

    There is no one, simple fix, but a start is certainly to acknowledge that while the 19th C. FPTP system we inherited from the UK worked okay when there were only 2 major national parties, it has become the first problem that needs to be addressed in the early 21st C. where we have multiple parties in play.

    My own preference would be the Preferential Ballot, in which the voter ranks in order of preference (1st, 2nd, third,etc.)the candidates on the ballot, with the winner being the one to hit 50% + 1 of all votes with the distribution of the preferential rankings.

    That way every resulting MP would have the enhanced legitimacy of representing the majority & not just a plurality of the voters in their riding, with the additional benefit of reducing the mindless partisanship/ divisiveness of playing to the base, because in most ridings candidates who want to win will have to reach out to some or all of the voters beyond their base.

    If you wanted to take it even a step further, we could add a limited number of seats that would be distributed to the parties on the basis of their proportional national % of first-vote preferences, with say a threshhold of 5% required.

    Of course, nothing will change until the parties see their interests better served by reform than the status quo, but sooner or later, a crisis of democratic legitimacy will strike our current system.

  42. That’s a great comment SF. And it furthers my attempts at an argument that the people got what they wanted. Again, there’s this overwhelming belief that government will do what it wants whether the people chose it or not. What a load of garbage. The people chose this type of government and thus they get more of it. Thus the Cons become Liberals in their governing habbits etc.

    If the people truly didn’t like this government as much as some people would have us believe there would be mass protests and the like we see elsewhere. Even the US and some European states see more passion from their voters on governing issues. But not here. Because we’re generally lazy resulting from our overall contentment with the status quo, not because the evil government monolith has beaten it out of us. Believe me, politicians would change their stripes on mass if the public demanded it. These people aren’t superior overlords….they’re popularity junkies who will bend to whatever the majority of the public wants. And that public wants this whether we like it or not.

  43. “The country needs a new reason to exist: a placid, consumeristic Eden is self-defeating in the end.”

    If by “consumeristic” you mean people spending and spending and never saving and investing or thinking about the future then I agree, it’s self defeating. But Canadians do not live this way by choice. They are forced into this lifestyle by government policies of taxation, regulation and inflation. Why put aside money and invest it when the government is going to wipe it out with inflation, tie your investments in a regulatory straitjacket, put the companies in which you invest out of business with taxes and regulation or by subsidizing competing companies run by their cronies, and then tax away any profits which you might be lucky enough to make in the long term? (and claw back your government pension to boot) And why bother being independently well-off when they have promised you free healthcare forever, free nursing homes and free or subsidized education for your children? They say that they destroy your savings because “they care” but of course the real purpose is to turn you into impoverished serfs.

    If however by “consumeristic” you mean people ignoring the politicians and their voting racket and building relationships in their community which are co-operative and mutually beneficial rather than coerced by three or more levels of government, then I’m all for that. It’s the way of peace and prosperity.

  44. I’ve always said that complacency is one of our least endearing “national” qualities, anglophones and francophones alike. Or maybe we have just become extremely cynical. There used to be this grafitti in Montreal that read “If voting could change the system, it would be illegal.” Tough statement to counter.

  45. From waaaaay earlier in the convo:
    A responsible citizen and voter looks at society’s greater good and has a stake in the greater community outside himself. That is a foreign concept to today’s kids and twenty and thirty somethings.

    Not to toot my own horn…
    I’m twenty something. My many friends are twenty and thirty somethings. And we all voted. And encouraged everyone else we know to vote. And when we discussed/debated the issues, it was almost exclusively at the level of “the greater community outside himself[/herself].” And, as an aside, we didn’t all vote for the same parties either.

    Methinks unproven generalisations that marginalise groups also contribute to voter apathy…

  46. Let me say at the outset – I voted. Now, let me tell you it was with fingers firmly attached to each nostril enabling me to do so while plugging my nose.
    Having personally experienced a local election where 60+% of the electorate participated and then at the whim of the provincial gov’t. decided to IGNORE a portion of that same vote — whoever says democracy is alive and well obviously isn’t completely up to speed.
    Parties and party leaders are mere pawns in the Bureaucracies that now run our municipalities, provinces, and yes, our country.
    Money, greed and power have replaced democracy way more than the average person either knows or admits. How sad is that!

  47. Here, here N@W. I’m a thirty-something and have voted in every federal and provincial election I’ve been eligible for. I almost didn’t vote this past time for no reason other than I reside in Stephen Harper’s riding and I don’t support the Conservative Party. Could my vote be any more pointless?

  48. Hazzard, your vote would have been far more pointless were it a non-vote. In my riding, my vote did not elect my preferred candidate, the winner was pretty much a foregone conclusion. But margins matter; parties and candidates pay attention.

    I agree that proportional representation would sharpen every party’s focus a whole lot more, but I remain to be convinced that Canada should overhaul its status quo that much. I have sympathetic leanings in that direction, mind you, just not enough conviction for it.

  49. It seems to my mind difficult to draw a distinction between “acceptable” barriers to voting and “unacceptable” barriers to voting.

    It would obviously be unacceptable if polls were only open for a few hours each day or if everyone had to travel to Ottawa to cast a ballot.

    How much more acceptable then is it to perpetuate a system where the limited selection of parties is unpalatable to many people, or where actions such as attack ads turn off potential voters?

    We have our present system by accident, not because it is the pinnacle of democracy (we have a Queen, for goodness sake). The system needs to change to accommodate the people, not the other way around. Mandatory voting improves the symptoms but doesn’t fix any problems.

  50. Explanatory variable missing: number of parties.

    Of course in a 5-party system fewer people will have voted for the ultimate winner than in a 2.5 party system. If your little trend included splines, it would actually be a relatively straight line till 1993, thereafter moving downwards markedly.

    Do the Conservatives “lack a mandate” because of this? No. Lots of people didn’t vote for the Conservatives, but that doesn’t mean the Tories weren’t their second choice, often by a narrow margin. One man-one vote unfortunately doesn’t let people express the nuances in their preferences.

  51. Andrew..

    This post sounds very socialist, to me….

  52. It’s all spelled out in “The Grand Inquisitor” by Dostoevsky.

    Further to the issue of voter apathy, I suspect the failure of the Liberal Party in raising funds is interconnected.

  53. Fewer voters does not mean a sorry democratic culture. It is a sign that the electorate are content and prosperous – and of the moderate character of the parties contending for power.

    With non-voters the parties likely to win just don’t scare people and they don’t really mind which party wins.

    Those who do vote are those who have given the issues some thought and taken the time to form a preference – it is not a bad thing that such people determine the outcome of the election.

    People have been posting comments on the Nazis. The election that brought the Nazis to power had nearly full voter turnout – people were scared by the extreme options on the table. George F. Will wrote an essay about this subject years ago, that’s where I got this info about the last Weimar election.

  54. Off-topic but I just watched the most recent At Issue panel on the CBC website and you might be interested, Mr. Coyne, in reading the comments posted there re: your comments on the treatment of Stéphane Dion. The commenters agree entirely with what you said (as do I).

    As long as I’m off-topic: would you mind updating your website with some of your recent columns if/when you have a chance?

  55. Andrew: I’ve never seen you present such a weak argument.

    You seem to be jumping to the conclusion in assuming that the people who didn’t vote in the election do not support the government. This is simply not true.

    We could also assume that every single person who didn’t cast a ballot was comfortable with the projected outcome which was a conservative government. Then we could make the leap and suggest every single non-voter is a Conservative supporter and so the government has a mandate of 85% of the public.

    Of course that wouldn’t be true either, but its as well-founded in fact as the narrative you’ve laid out.

  56. “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

    – Alexander Tyler, 1787

    To update this statement somewhat, the people will also be happy to vote themselves the contents of other nation’s savings and public treasuries, by promising to repay them someday with their own children’s and grandchildren’s incomes and savings. This has the effect of prolonging the life of the democracy by disguising the profligacy somewhat, but the same ending is inevitable. Anybody who has heard McCain promising endless war against the rest of the world or Obama promising endless war against domestic taxpayers can see a pretty clear example of what happens when the fiscal house of cards collapses and the end draws near. (Here’s my prediction: no matter who wins you will see the worst policies of both candidates enacted)

  57. I used to think my vote didn’t make a difference, it’s only the people that are a minority that think that.There was a marked difference between Dion and Harper and it wouldn’t have taken many of those people who don’t vote to change the direction of our country if they had particapated. The right were splitting the vote a few years ago, now the left are doing it. In Quebec we have the “spoiled child” party called the Bloc.

  58. If people have hope that they can make a difference, they will act. When the choice is between a fascist incumbent who tolerates no dissent or critical questioning of his policies or his actions, or a spend-thrift left-winger, or a wing-nut liberal, many people just became paralyzed with indecision. I know this to be true, because I asked many people in Edmonton about what they did or were going to do on Election Day. (I did vote, by the way. Just because I feel sympathy for the indecisive doesn’t mean I agree with their failure to act.)
    Marnie Tunay

  59. In between loads of laundry last night, I caught the tail end of “At Issue” on CBC and I thought I heard you suggesting a female candidate from the right would be an interesting choice for a future Liberal leader. Like to hear more on that.


  60. I see the trend reversing in the next few years. Born in 1951 I am reminded of an interrogatory conversation with the father of a young woman I was dating at age 20 – he reminded me that people’s main interests go through stages in their life – first sex -then politics and finally religion. When asked what my main interest was I replied “Politics sir”

  61. The bais for the graph is not really relevant because everyone has the opportunity to vote. Not taking the opportunity to vote generally should be taken as satisfaction with the incumbent government. The government’s mandate is based on members elected. Period.

  62. Speaking of declining democracy, Andrew, did I miss the parliamentary debate on the $24 billion birthday present (err, “backstop”) promised to certain favored and well connected financial institutions? I understand that once upon a time governments wrote things called “budgets” which were presented to the people claiming to be our representatives and then debated, passed by a public vote, given the same treatment in an alleged house of sober second thought, and finally passed into law following official assent from the monarch’s representative.

    Now, apparently, spending which will potentially dwarf any other item in the budget is simply cooked up in back rooms between corporate weasels and former corporate weasels now working in the finance department, a memo listing the amount of free money required is passed to the Minister’s assistant, the Minister reads the memo to a TV camera, and the media goes back to debating whether the so-called opposition leader is a “real leader” or not.

    I mean, this is pretty much how things have always been done in Canada, but it seems that recently it’s been decided that there is no longer any need to pretend that the victims of the scam are participants in the decision, even if only by proxy. The weasels are saying, “Enough with the sham legislative budget process. This emergency is far too urgent to bother explaining to anyone or wasting breath discussing its merits – gimme!” If they’re going to stop pretending I have a say then so am I.

    “Not taking the opportunity to vote generally should be taken as satisfaction with the incumbent government.”

    Wrong. It’s exactly the opposite. A non-vote says, “They’re going to ignore me and steal my money and enrich their friends anyways, so why bother.”

  63. Quite franklyBecause I can’t think of anything intelligent to say, I will say that the uninformed vote is no worse than the informed vote.-Mike T.


  64. I voted this last election, but I don’t know why I bothered. There hasn’t been a major party leader worth voting for since I turned 18, 15 years ago. By the time any of these people make it to the political level at which they are running for PM they have sold their soul to the corporate elite. The media, including this magazine, refuse to do any kind of investigative reporting, unless its regarding an affair or a racist/pseudo-racist/sexist comment. God forbid they actually told the Canadian people that their country is being bought out from under them….then they might be inclined to do something to stop it!

  65. The silencing of Kevin Page, Parliament’s own budget officer is a sign of the state of democracy, accounability and transparency.

    It is a shame that Canadians and media are not protesting when the speakers restrict the independence of Page to release vital information to Canadians on the nation’s finances and expenditures of the govt. Accountability and democracy has lost meaning.

  66. As a voter one naturally observes the results of votes over a period of years. I have learned that only in rare cases am I really disappointed with the result of a vote – and even when I am, I often later come to see the wisdom of the result. Generally I don’t need to vote to be happy with the democratic process.

    Look, if commercial polls are done carefully, only a very few ‘voters’ allow us to predict the result of an election – even when the polling is done before the election.

    The only real concern therefore is that low voter turnout might be non-representative, that is, that it might happen to be the equivalent of biased polling. But low voter turnout doesn’t have to be deficient in this way.

    In the long term a biased result whether or not particularly low) would tend to show up in large groups of non-voters marching in the streets, or worse, the first signs of civil disorder. Thoise are the real signs of decay, not low voter turnout.

    From experience we can say that most Canadians, like myself, are generally satisfied with the results of recent elections. In recent elections the issues were not terribly divisive, the politicians not very distinct – neither distinguished nor very frightening.

    Canada has a record of excellent governance based upon choices made in low turnout elections. We may not appreciate that, but people from other countries do notice. So, low voter turnout is not a sign in itself of a decaying democracy, it is not evidence of the decline and fall of the system, but of its quiet success.

  67. So great is the intelligence of Obama that I am concerned that the USA may not recognise this as fully as it deserves.

    He should be crowned Emperor Obama the Great in a ceremony modelled on the coronation of that other man of the rarest and most invaluable gifts: Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic.

    Emperor Bokassa’s coronation ceremony, complete with carriages drawn by white horses in all the healthful, steaming heat of Bangui, is an event still cherished in the capacious memory of Africa.

    Who among us will forget how the grateful citizenry of Bangui did rend the welkin with lusty cheers as, lined up under the sagging palm trees amid their elegantly rotting huts, the golden carriage swept by them, their Imperial Majesties waving graciously? Particular note was taken of the scarcely-earthly poise of the Empress, that sveltest and lithest of three tonners.

    So overwhelming was the grandeur of this ceremony, that the very hippopotami in the decorously muddy Ubangui-Shari river on which Bangui’s noble, gently deliquescing hutments stand, could not but unloose, in spontaneous salute, their most magnificent, spectacular yawns!

    Here is an event, set in that very ancient land of his roots – Africa! – that Obama will be thrilled to replicate in Washington. We are convinced that Her Imperial Majesty Michelle Obama will show to no less advantage than did the Empress Bokassa.

    This coronation of Emperor Obama, certain to glisten with a particularly grateful sheen at the top of the world’s social register of glittering occasions, will serve to inaugurate an extremely desirable trend: America’s shaking off of its woeful provincialism and its adoption of an only too needful willingness to learn from that first instructor of all mankind: Africa !

    “Africa, Land of the Sun,
    The King of Continents,
    The Ancient One !

    And now – o what unendurable Drama !
    Thou – Land that Spewed forth Obama! “

  68. Our electoral system has two problems. The ballot we use and the question we try to answer with it.

    Low voter turnout is partly the result of the same tried, true and successful campaign strategy used by every candidate and every party. When competing for that one X, a candidate would like to go one vote ahead of everybody else. But when a candidate goes to a voter’s door, he or she knows that, at best, 70% of the people they meet will be against them … therefore it is far easier to verbally carpet bomb every other candidate and party in the hopes that the people they meet will not vote for anyone else. It is much easier for a candidate to be negative and make sure that he or she is not one vote behind any other candidate. You know the words “all politicians …”. It also does not help that the real question is “which candidate in your electoral district do you want to represent you in parliament” is presented as “which leader, which party, which promises and which candidate do you want”. That four things to not like. When every candidate and every party does that to a voter, the voter gets the message. When the turmout goes down, every candidate and every party pats themselves on the back.

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