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