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Slow Death Of The Ballot Essay

2386 words - 10 pages

The numerous, vivid struggles for universal enfranchisement during the first half of the 20th Century are recorded all over Canadian politics textbooks- testaments of the public will of citizens to be included in the running of the country. However, it is common knowledge that over the past decades, Canadians have become less likely to directly participate in political affairs, illustrated by the fact that only 61% of eligible voters casted a ballot in the 2011 federal elections (Elections Canada, 2011b). The trend of declining voter turnout is worrisome as the success of democracy depends on public participation in its institutions and processes (O’Neill, 2001, 9). The legitimacy of a government and its policies lies on the fact that it is elected, and increasing numbers of non-voters may call into question this legitimacy (Elections Canada, 2011a). Likewise, the quality of democracy is decreased as political leaders find it harder to govern and meet public demands if they are not expressed through voting (Belanger & Nadeau, 2005, 121). Yet any formulation of solutions must take into account the roots of this problem. This essay will argue that the troubling decline of voting turnout in Canada is predominantly due to three factors: widespread perceptions of the inefficacy of voting and non-competitive nature of elections, declining trust towards government and politicians, and civic disengagement by young Canadians.
First, electors’ beliefs of the inefficacy of voting and the lack of competition in Canadian elections, as contributing factors to lower turnout rates will be explored. Canadians’ sense of powerlessness vis-a-vis the government has increased from 1990 to 2000 across almost all age cohorts, by as much as 13% points (O’Neill, 2001, appendix A). A survey carried out by Pammet and LeDuc (2003, 40) shows that over 60% of citizens believe their vote makes little or no difference in the country; this number jumps to 74% when specific to non-voters. 1) Participants of this study commented on the lack of choice in elections ‘it’s always the same thing over and over’, while others referred to single party dominance which made it seem as if there was no hope of an alternative government, as contributing to their discontent (Ibid, 7).
The roots of this voting skepticism can be largely attributed to Canada’s plurality electoral system, in which voters base their ballot on the candidate of their riding and the party that wins the majority of votes is awarded the district (Nasrallah, 2009, 35). Although this system has the advantage of producing majority governments which tend to be stable (Heard, n.d.), it is regarded as unfair by more than two-thirds of Canadian voters (O’Neill, 2001, 20-21). There are two reasons for this negative perception. 2) The first is that because governmental power is decided upon an aggregate of constituency results on a first-past-the-post basis, the winner is not necessarily the party or the candidate with the...

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