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Political Alienation In “Strengthening Citizen Participation In Public Policy Making: A Canadian Perspective” By Michael R. Woodford And Susan Preston

690 words - 3 pages

In “Strengthening Citizen Participation in Public Policy-Making: A Canadian Perspective” by Michael R. Woodford and Susan Preston asses how citizen participation and government accountability in policy-making are often at odds. It is not often that Canadians have been begrudged the opportunity to participate in public hearings, citizen polls and other consultative methods; however, the degree to which their voices have been taken into account often falls short.
Policy-makers are not bound by citizen’s opinions ¬– unless it is a binding referenda – and yet public participation is said to help “reverse the growing democratic deficit, foster citizenship and community capacity, and promote responsive and effective policy decisions” (Woodford and Preston 346). These “improvements,” in practice, raises a larger question: should Members of Parliament be voting in accordance with party politics or those of their constituents? Since the effective inclusion of citizens opinions “requires that public administrators and policy makers be committed to genuinely considering [this] input in policy analysis and decision-making” (347). Without a commitment to the collective voice, citizens may not be any better off. This calls into question whether a decrease in voter turn out is associated with the lack of influence citizens feel they really have in policy-making and the larger Canadian picture.
In Canada, the participatory role of citizens in policy-making is made possible through consultative methods that seem to have far more negatives than positives. Woodford and Preston note that according to various Canadian scholars, consultative means include: “one way communication, infrequent feedback, limited involvement, poor representativeness, consultation being government controlled and consultation having little or no effect on policy decisions” (349-350). The six outlined themes are strikingly obvious, in terms of the downsides of a consultative measure both in theory and in practice. One-way communication is present from both citizens who do not actively engage as well as the government who often refrains from interacting with citizens who chose to participate. Infrequent feedback remains consistent with both consultation and engagement, which will be discussed further down. Limited involvement and poor...

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