Democratic Deficit and Elections in Canada
July 9 , 2013
Hurdles for citizens through the process of filing out applications in order to justify their
intent to write a letter voicing their concerns.
Democratic Deficit in public consultation process.
What is a democratic deficit?
- Democratic Malaise
- Decline in Canada‟s confidence in democratic institutions and practices (cross)
o Democratic Audit by (Cross) – Book
- How is democratic deficit defined?
o Voter turn out
o Transparency and secrecy (Trust in Government)
Was transparency there, or were we simply not aware of it previously?
o Voices not being heard
o Lack of representation of specific groups (income, gender, religious, etc.)
We‟ve seen occupational changes in class and genders
DESCRIPTIVE REPRESENTATION – With someone that mirrors the
same qualities as you (mirror representation).
SUBSTANTIVE REPRESENTATION – Not the qualities of the person
that should be in office, but the issues. Vast differences, but the values
and ideals are the same for specific issues.
o Lack of trust of institutions and immediacy of information
Aura of distrust
Evidence of Democratic Deficit
Declining Levels of
1. Voter Turnout – Government should be interested and vested in voter turn out in order to
increase legitimacy to rule and govern.
2. Party membership
3. Trust in government
4. External efficacy / Internal efficacy (faith I have in my ability to have a say) – Low VS
6. Participation in groups and associations
7. Senses of community
Measures of democratic success
- Public Participation
Elections and participation within them are regarded as the hallmark of democratic participation
and of the life and health of democracy.
Voter turnout predicament
Levels falling in a majority of western liberal democracies worldwide
Turnout falling among all age groups, but the bulk of the decline can be attributed to
young people Democratic Deficit and Elections in Canada
July 9 , 2013
Canada is no exception
o 2008 worst date
o 2011 not much better
Electors turning their back on voting in elections as a meaningful avenue of participation
o Particularly the young
1. Why are elections an important part of our political process?
a. Because they measure the health of democracy
2. Does our democratic system of government depend on elections?
a. Yes, it does because democracy depends on legitimacy via elections
3. How does our electoral system impact the quality of Canadian democracy?
What are elections? Why are they important?
Key component of a democratic process
Central function of a democracy
Creates a linkage between citizens and the state
Encourages government responsiveness to citizen interests
Creates a source of legitimacy for government
Elections in a representative democracy: representatives advances their interest
Delegate model: should be speaking for the interest at all times
o Drawbacks: What if we live in a community where there‟s a lot of difference,
which perspective do you take to advance?
Mechanism for holding the government to account for its actions and policies
o Which are these mechanisms?
Voting in elections is the simplest/easiest way for participation
Help to define the structure and agenda of government
Helps determine the number and types of parties that emerge and compete
o Canada – Multiparty system.
Allows for the free expression of different political and social ideas and views
Can improve social cohesion or worse it? (I.E religious, regional, linguistic differences)
Contributes to the sense of citizen efficacy (belief that he/she has made a contribution to
government / democracy)
Are voters important?
Aggregation and Representation of Interests
Not holding government to account
Lack of responsiveness
Missing connection with the state / government
No democratic renewal (must be renewed with each generation)
A lack of voters or dismal voter turnout prevents elections from living up to their full
When elections suffer so to does democratic health
How do we explain the decline?
Theories of Voting
- Life-cycle theory (explains why it‟s low amongst the youth) Democratic Deficit and Elections in Canada
July 9 , 2013
o Argues that as you get older, as you marry, as you purchase a house, get a job
and pay taxes, you‟re more inclined to participate (as you start rooting more into
the community and pay into the system).
- Generational argument
o Materialism and post-materialism
Shift in values and generational argument where the parents valued
voting more where they grew up in tougher times. A lot less of human
security and this has made them value more voter turn out.
- General decline
o People are just disengaged in the political process. Don‟t‟ feel they‟re being
represented. Many contextual and some structural
- A shift in the scope and the nature of participation
o Boycott, biocott, and culture jam.
o Internet participation, etc.
- Which is correct? Is there another explanation we need to be looking at