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On Democracy Week, let’s consider Canada’s democratic future

Posted by Justin Trudeau on September 20, 2012 | No Comments

This week is Democracy Week in Canada. So it seems an appropriate time to think about what democracy means to us individually, and as a society, and to renew our ongoing conversation about our values, ideals and vision for the future of this country.

Canadians should be proud to live in one of the world’s greatest democracies. Though our electoral system has been shaken recently amid troubling allegations of a widespread and coordinated attempt to deprive Canadians in ridings across the country of their right to vote, our Parliament and our judiciary are looked to by countries around the world as something to emulate and aspire to. That said, there remains much work to do and some very serious challenges we must address.

Voter turnout has steadily declined in Canada in the past two decades—at all government levels – and unfortunately there is no quick fix. Voters are turning away from politics in record numbers because of structural barriers, motivational barriers and communications barriers. In short, many Canadians either can’t get to the voting booth or simply don’t want to vote.

While this phenomenon is happening across demographics, nowhere do these issues resonate more profoundly than with Canada’s youth. The generation of Canadians who will inherit this are country are fed up with the current poisonous and uber-partisan political climate, where they feel left out and turned off of the conversation.

So how do we fix things? We have to figure out how to lower barriers to participation through the use of technology, and expand outreach to all groups that are currently excluded.

We have to stop treating our youth like they are a homogenous group. Connecting with young people means understanding that the issues they care about are as rich and diverse as any other group.

And we have to confront head on the motivational barriers to participation. It is my job, and the job of every legislator, to work to restore Canadians’ faith in politics and politicians, especially among our young people.

We know that if you don’t vote, your level of civic engagement is likely to be lower, and you are less likely to get involved in your community. Low voter turnout weakens our democracy and it is our responsibility as a society to do everything in our power to improve it.

The Liberal Party, for one, continues to be seized with this vital issue, and we invite all Canadians to become Liberal supporters and engage in this conversation with us.

In addition, as a former teacher, I encourage all educators, youth and Canadians as a whole, to check out the Library of Parliament’s fantastic resource initiative Our Country, Our Parliament and learn more about how our democracy works and how you can get more involved.

Justin Trudeau

MP, Papineau
Liberal Critic responsible for Post Secondary Education, Youth and Amateur Sport

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Please note that comments are moderated with the goal of stimulating an intelligent and fruitful discussion. As such, we ask that you use language that is civil and respectful, and refrain from attacks of any kind. We reserve the right to remove or not post any comments or information that does not meet these requirements.
  1. Avatar of Bryan Crockett Bryan Crockett said on

    Hear, hear!

  2. Avatar of Howard Thomas Howard Thomas said on

    Totally agree and youth are not engaged as they see the political process as broken. We need to not only talk about new ideas, but new WAYS to create meaningful change – hollow words no longer work. Youth are experiential, social and connected and live in an on demand world – the new political leaders have their futures tied to youth. Their value to the future of the Liberal party is more critical than ever.

  3. Avatar of Amanda Bickle Amanda Bickle said on

    You said it Mr. Trudeau.

    In my opinion a strong platform with genuine values, a passionate leader with a great team behind him or her are the keys to bringing people back to the voting table.

  4. Avatar of ryan kavanagh ryan kavanagh said on

    As a young person I appreciate this (apparent) shift in attitudes and hope it is substantive and sustained. You are right that partisan politics and attack-ads turn off voters (of all ages!!), but remember that you issued them too so please be humble.

    Some other things to keep in mind as you move forward in the fall session:
    – Young people of any age cohort don’t like being TOLD what to do by suits. We will meet objectives WITH you, in a partnership, as equals, and on time.

    – I am frustrated that I have had the opportunity to vote in a single Federal Election and yet owe the Federal government at least $17,000+. Probably more, because frankly my grandparents won’t live long enough to repay their share of their voted debt.

    – I am frustrated that I will be graduating from University further burdened with personal debt (despite many efforts otherwise) and searching for GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT that simply does not exist.

    – Should I secure employment I will have to work in to my 70s, and I am frustrated that, in combatting spending, the current retirement age has been raised only to 67, going into effect only after most Boomers have already retired. Boomers who voted in debt and will not be repaying it.

    – I love my grandparents. They have done so much to help me through life so far, and, in a world so different from the one they grew up in, I love being able to help them.

    – Justin, in times of hardship, everyone needs to take a haircut; seriously, it’s not the sixties.

    So, what the hell guys,

    A concerned young Canadian

  5. Avatar of Mike Sugden Mike Sugden said on

    We need to vote the Liberal Party back into Power in the next Election so we can get Canada back on track. Canada only prospers when the Middle Class Prospers. Its all going to start with the Liberal Leadership Race. Hopefully we Pick a strong leader that is very popular with people all across the country and well put the Middle Class First and Make the Wealthiest People and the Wealthy Coperations Pay more in Taxes. That’s What President Obama is running on in his Re Election Campaign this fall and that is what the Liberal Party of Canada should run on in the 2015 Federal Election so we would have a great chance of winning.

  6. Avatar of Catherine Soplet Catherine Soplet said on

    For liberals, the path for voting behavious starts with parent engagement in public education.

    The pattern is indentifeid and replicated in Ontario where, since 2005-06, parent learning workshops help parents learn how to support their students’ education outcomes.

    Where workshops deploy, voluntarism is seen to increase as student literacy and school climate also improve. In just a few years, the communities where grants deploy establish collaborative tables to organize community projects. The process is evident in Toronto and Peel.

    Leveraging education to produce voluntarism is a bottom-up approach to observations made in 2002 political science research. The paper was a resource to inform the Multi-Member Proportional representatation refere.ndum of the 2007 Ontario provincial election.

    In “The Landscape of Political Engagement” by UofT PoliSci Chair David Cameron, reference is made to studies which show that levels of both civic engagement and voluntary engagement increased as higher levels of education were attained.

    Parent engagement in schools has just been given a big boost in Ontario.

    On August 30, the Ontario govenrment announced more than 2000 grants have been approved for 2012-13, an increase of 25% over the prior year. The 2012-13 grants will engage more than 40,000 parents with 10,000 educators to boost education outcomes for some 100,000 students.

    The application for 2013-14 cycle of grants is Spring 2013. In Ontario, Liberals can build base by helping parent councils work with their principals to get the grants.

    More info: @Soplet to access website
    Linked-In “Summary” contains additional hyperlinks to public info.

  7. Avatar of Hugh Ferguson Hugh Ferguson said on

    I would have appreciated a few specifics as to how to engage youth. My suggestion based on our existing platform is to really make electoral reform (whatever form that will take – rep by pop, preferential balloting, a combination of the two…) absolutely central in the next election. Nothing says ‘your vote matters’ like an overhaul of a system that was designed to entrench the status quo.

  8. Avatar of Pat Barclay Pat Barclay said on

    Re low voter turnout, I suggest we seriously consider a return to the pre-election enumeration system. For anyone not familiar with it, this system employed local people to canvas door to door, confirming an important election would soon be held, and identifying the eligible voters in each household. Registration cards to bring on E-day were then left at each home (and probably posted on the fridge as reminders). These cards sped up procedures on E-day, and backup voters lists at the polls took care of legitimate people who forgot to bring their cards or were somehow missed.
    If this system sounds cumbersome, compare it to today when so many forget, or neglect, to vote. That personal house call made all the difference. It would also help stop election fraud, if every card included a note stating how to report suspicious activity. People would love being enlisted to Stand Guard for Democracy in this way!

  9. Avatar of Sang Riel Sang Riel said on

    Why are you guys so anti-dictatorship? Imagine if Canada was a dicatatorship! You could let 1% of the people have all the nations wealth. You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes and bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could ignore the needs of the poor for health-care and education. Your media would appear free; but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family. You could wire-tape phones. You could torture foreign prisoners. You could have rigged elections. You could lie about why you go to war. You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group and no one would complain. You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests. I knew this is hard for you Canadians to imagine, but please: try

  10. Avatar of Sang Riel Sang Riel said on

    I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an Emperor – that’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible — Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another; human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there’s room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
    The way of life can be free and beautiful.

    But we have lost the way.

    Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

    The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

    To those who can hear me I say, “Do not despair.” The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators die; and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

    Soldiers: Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel; who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate; only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural.

    Soldiers: Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written, “the kingdom of God is within man” — not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men, in you, you the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

    Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite!! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people!! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise!! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

    Soldiers: In the name of democracy, let us all unite!!!

    Wherever you are, look up. The clouds are lifting. The sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world, a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed and brutality.
    Look up. The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow — into the light of hope, into the future, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me, and to all of us. Look up.

  11. Avatar of Ian Wiggins Ian Wiggins said on

    To engage more voters there must be an alternative that promises to deliver truth, transparency and refuses to engage in spin and subtrafuge. Politicians present nothing credible.

  12. Avatar of Bruno Santia Bruno Santia said on

    I doubt there will be many who disagree with Mr. Trudeau’s goal of reversing voter turn out trends, especially in the “youth” demographic.
    Unfortunately, I do nor hear nor read much in ideas on how to accomplish that goal.

    Here’s some food for thought on what might assist…
    Some of these ideas are out there. That said, great ideas probably all started out as pipe dreams before the became refined, such as the idea of democracy itself.

    So here goes…
    Off the top of my head….

    1) – Give each student right up to the final high-school year an annual opportunity to earn annual “education tax credits” at tax time (April 30th.). The credits are earned by simply having the student complete an online course each year offered by the Federal Government on how our federal politics function. (Volunteers can sign up to be screened and mark the courses, verify student participation and this will also reduce administrative costs)
    It’s tough to engage people if they don’t understand the process or at least know how it’s theoretically laid out to work)
    Don’t tell me the education is happening in schools. It’s not !

    2) – Electoral reform to include a number of National MP Seats specifically voted on by those within a specific age, say “15 – 21″.
    In other words, those of legal voting age get to vote twice, once for their local MP and once for their National Youth MP. Those that are not at the age to legally vote can start by voting for the National Youth MP only.
    If we want them engaged, give them an actual voice in our parliament and don’t be surprised when they out perform the big boys and girls….

    3) – Put our money where our mouths are…
    10% of all money collected by all political parties is to be pooled into a non partisan resource to specifically target the goal of increasing youth participation. (The management selection of the non-partisan agency is voted on as a percentage of popular vote after each election by the political parties.

    4) – Federally run a national research program seeking the ideas of all new eligible voters in the two years prior to reaching voting age…

    There’s many more ideas I can think of and many more out there from smarter people than me on this site.

    It’s action that will get us to our goals…

    This is the most important issue for the future of this country. We owe it to all who died fighting for the freedoms we enjoy today.


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